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Love was in the air on the first day of White Sox Spring Training. The first day of spring (when it comes to baseball) usually brings a healthy dose of optimism as every team has high hopes for the season and everybody is starting the year 0-0. In recent years, the stories coming out of Glendale, AZ were about a veteran White Sox team ready to take the AL Central and finally put the Sox back in the playoffs. This year, the tune has changed, but that doesn’t mean the buzz surrounding camp is any less exciting. Here are three story lines to keep an eye on after the first day of spring training.

Carlos Rodon is Taking it Easy as The Future Ace

Carlos Rodon figures to be the future ace of the White Sox with Chris Sale being shipped off to Boston and Quintana seemingly not too far behind him. When you break it down, Rodon as an ace makes sense. Rodon was the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and made his debut in 2015. As my colleague, Sean Barrett, pointed out he finished out the 2015 season with a 9-6 record and a 3.75 ERA in 23 starts. In 2016, his first full major league season, his numbers regressed, as he finished with a 9-10 record and a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts. With Rodon figuring to be an important piece to the White Sox rebuild, it may come as a surprise to find out he did not throw with the other pitchers on Day 1. “Everything’s normal. Everything’s good. We’re just taking our time, trying to figure out what the plan is here for the long term,” Rodon said. “We’re just starting a little slow. Workload is going to be a little more this year. So we’re going to take it a little slow.”

As Scott Merkin of mlb.com points out, the White Sox took a similar route with Sale last spring and it seemed to work out for him. Lefties with sliders like Rodon and Sale can often times be Tommy John surgery waiting to happen so the White Sox are smart to take the cautious route. More on Rodon will be known on Friday, when the 24-year-old said he’s scheduled to throw.

 

Charlie Tilson: Opening Day Center Fielder?

I have already made my high opinion of Charlie Tilson known (https://chisportsnation.com/2017/01/18/the-next-adam-eaton-charlie-tilson-is-ready-for-the-show/) but it looks like the Sox are starting to agree with me. Per Rick Hahn, Tilson has the inside track on the starting center fielder job if he stays healthy throughout spring training. Tilson is coming off a hamstring injury suffered in his MLB debut that kept him out of the lineup for the rest of the year, but the White Sox feel confident that he can come back from it. Even though position players are not due to arrive for a few more days, Tilson is already in Glendale working out. “Speed is what got me here. It’s definitely my biggest asset,” Tilson said. “Being able to use that tool is very important to me and I’m very pleased with where I’m at. Tilson figures to bat towards the top of the lineup along side Tim Anderson as both players use their speed to put some pressure on the base paths.

Per mlb.com, Tilson told reporters “It’s a work in progress, but I’m definitely close and getting better every day for sure.”

 

Trade Talks Are An Ongoing Process

Do not expect the stories about Jose Quintana being traded to die down anytime soon. While many writers believe Quintana is inevitably going to the Astros because of their desperate need for another starter and strong farm system, the Cardinals suddenly make sense as well. Alex Reyes, the Cardinals top prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, has a partially torn UCL and could require Tommy John surgery. Reyes was expected to push for a roster spot with St. Louis so expect trade talks involving the White Sox and St. Louis to pick up steam.

Quintana is not the only player seemingly on the trading block. Relief pitchers David Robertson and Nate Johns have been linked to other teams this off season and the players do their best to ignore the rumors. Per mlb.com, “We just look at it as rumors until something happens,” said Jones. You just kind of block it out because everybody can talk whatever they want to, but nothing gets done. Then you did a lot of worrying about nothing. I just try not to worry about it and whatever happens, happens.” Rick Hahn has been placing an emphasis on the youth movement and creating depth on the roster. At Sox Fest this year, Hahn harped on the fact that the White Sox lacked depth in the past and he wanted to focus on that in the coming years. “But as we sit here today, and we’re trying to build for the future, giving young players the opportunity to show what they can do at the big league level will serve us better in the long run”, said Hahn.

The team present on Day 1 of spring training may look very different than the team playing the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day. In a rebuilding year, that is to be expected.

 

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