White Sox extend non-roster invites

Sox extend non-roster invites to prospects

CHICAGO -- The White Sox will take some time to celebrate their World Series title from the very recent past during the upcoming Spring Training, which begins with pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 17 and position players reporting on Feb. 22.

More importantly, they will be preparing in the present to repeat this championship effort. But the franchise's future certainly will be on display for at least part of the six weeks in Arizona.

Top-10 prospects, according to Baseball America, such as pitchers Lance Broadway and Ray Liotta, outfielder Ryan Sweeney and third baseman Josh Fields all were extended non-roster invites by the White Sox to Spring Training on Thursday. This quartet is part of 11 players within the system who will be joining the defending champions in Tucson, along with eight players who agreed to terms on Minor League contracts.

Of those eight invites, at least a handful could seriously compete for a job on the Major League roster. Left-handed relievers Chad Bentz, Javier Lopez and Steven Randolph, along with Corwin Malone from within the organization, will battle Arnie Munoz and Paulino Reynoso for the left-handed specialist role. Munoz and Reynoso already are part of the White Sox 40-man roster.

Randolph, 31, did not pitch at the Major League level in 2005. But the former Diamondbacks hurler worked in a combined 95 contests during the previous two seasons. Randolph struck out 112 over 142 2/3 innings, but he walked 119 during that same time frame. Bentz, 25, and Lopez, 28, have a combined 221 games of Major League experience

If the White Sox opt to keep 12 pitchers out of Spring Training, veteran right-hander Tim Redding also could compete for that final relief spot with rookie Jeff Bajenaru. Redding has appeared in 101 games (79 starts) with Houston (2001-04), San Diego (2005) and the Yankees (2005).

Right-handed pitcher Agustin Montero, infielder Jorge Velandia and outfielders Darren Blakely and Ben Grieve also agreed to Minor League deals. Grieve, 29, is a career .269 (864-for-3,215) hitter with 118 home runs and 492 RBIs in nine Major League campaigns and was named the American League Rookie of the Year with Oakland in 1998. Grieve played briefly for the Cubs in 2005 and could compete with Joe Borchard, Jerry Owens and Ross Gload for the final reserve outfielder/pinch-hitter job.

Players such as Broadway, Liotta, Sweeney and Fields have very little chance to join the White Sox out of Spring Training. But with manager Ozzie Guillen's liberal usage of young players during Cactus League action, coupled with regulars such as Freddy Garcia and Javier Vazquez taking part in the World Baseball Classic, they should get plenty of on-field time.

Sweeney, 20, hit .298 (128-for-429) with one home run and 48 RBIs last season at Double-A Birmingham. He was the Sox second-round draft choice in 2003 and owns a .294 (307-for-1,045) average in three Minor League seasons.

Liotta, 22, was 14-5 with a 2.02 ERA (37 ER/165.0 IP) in 28 starts between Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in 2005. The southpaw was named to the South Atlantic League's midseason All-Star Team, led all Sox farmhands in ERA, ranked second in innings pitched and third in wins and strikeouts (144).

Broadway, the White Sox No. 1 selection (15th overall) in the 2005 draft out of Texas Christian University, spent his first professional season at Class A Winston-Salem, going 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA (28 ER/55.0 IP) and 58 strikeouts in 11 starts. He went 15-1 with a 1.62 ERA his junior season at TCU and was named First-Team All-American by Baseball America and Louisville Slugger.

Fields, 23, batted .252 (120-477) with 16 home runs and 79 RBIs at Winston-Salem in his second professional season in 2005. The former No. 1 draft choice ranked third in the Southern League in RBIs and fifth with 134 games played. Both Fields and Sweeney were part of Spring Training in 2005 and once again intend to learn whatever they possibly can during their Major League time in Arizona, while improving their individual game.

"One thing I've been focused on was my changeup," said Broadway in a recent interview, after returning from one month of Instructional League action. "I got drafted on my curve, but I'm going to get to the big leagues by throwing my changeup and fastball with command and confidence."

"I'm trying to get to be as consistent as the guys that are up there already," Fields added.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.