Players rejuvenated by offseason maneuvers

Addition of veterans lights fire under youngsters competing for jobs

Players rejuvenated by offseason maneuvers

CHICAGO -- Six impact moves made by general manager Rick Hahn during this current offseason did more than positively influence an ecstatic White Sox fan base.

Those Hot Stove maneuvers provided additional currency in the form of an energy infusion to players already on the 40-man roster, further contributing to the belief that this 2015 version of the White Sox can be a playoff contender.

Micah Johnson, who will compete with Carlos Sanchez for the starting second base job, talked about a text he received recently from starting center fielder Adam Eaton imploring him to get after it and continue working hard in the weight room after this batch of signings and trades.

This feeling already manifested at a high level for Johnson.

"Everybody has bought into winning, and you can feel the excitement," Johnson said. "From a personal standpoint, it motivates you. It boosts team morale, team energy, team chemistry. That's something the Royals had last season."

The White Sox GM engineered free-agent deals for first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche, closer David Robertson, left fielder Melky Cabrera and left-handed reliever Zach Duke, while trading for left-handed reliever Dan Jennings and right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija. Hahn basically strengthened every questionable area, at least on paper.

Twitter Q&A with Samardzija

The Robertson move had a direct impact on Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam, who both found success through expected growing pains in the closer's role last year following injuries to Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario's ineffectiveness. But instead of seeing Robertson's four-year, $46 million deal as a potential ninth-inning opportunity lost, they look forward to being able to learn from the veteran. They also hope their names remain in the mix if Robertson needs a day of rest or two.

Twitter Q&A with Robertson

In Petricka's estimation, these veteran upgrades reinforce Hahn's belief in the young core being ready to be part of a winner.

"I'm very excited for the team we are going to put on the field," Petricka said. "It makes the offseason a lot easier to get up in the morning and get out in the cold and do that workout, knowing the team is going to be in the hunt if not leading the way."

"One of the pieces a championship team needs to have moving forward is a proven closer," said Putnam, focusing on Robertson. "To have a guy who has been around and closing games in Yankee Stadium, you aren't going to get much better than that."

Johnson hated to see good friends, teammates and roommates leave via the Samardzija trade, but he understands the business of baseball and the everyday playing chance someone such as Marcus Semien now will have in Oakland. The remaining White Sox understand the chance they have in 2015, and are working as hard ever to take full advantage.

Shark, Robertson buy team gear

As an example, Johnson doesn't just want to be a spot-filler at second base if he wins the job. He consistently wants to be on base for the run producers.

"Keep the train rolling," Johnson said. "I realize it's more exciting than nerve-wracking."

"[Hahn] has made it to where I look forward to checking the Internet," Putnam said. "I look forward to getting a text or phone call from my teammates, telling me the latest move."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.