Avila says spring for preparation, not numbers

Avila says spring for preparation, not numbers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Alex Avila reported great progress Sunday in regard to the lower back tightness that caused him to leave after three innings from Saturday afternoon's contest against the Reds.

It's the sort of issue that hits Avila every Spring Training as he's working with a daily catching routine. There usually are no problems once he gets through it.

Avila has not been successful at the plate by the numbers, with one hit in 17 at-bats, although he has walked seven times. But as a veteran player, he has done what he's needed to in Arizona.

"I'd probably like it if I had two or three more hits. My average would probably look better, and you probably wouldn't be asking me," said Avila with a wry smile. "To be honest, results in Spring Training mean absolutely nothing. I get ready for the season, and that's the bottom line.

"I've seen guys, their average looks as bad as I do and they were All-Stars that year," Avila said. "And I've seen guys hit 10 home runs in a month that don't end up doing anything. For guys like myself that have played awhile, it's about getting ready for the season."

That getting-ready process involves seeing the ball well for Avila.

"It's always a matter of getting in the rhythm of the game," Avila said. "You're off for four months or so, so it's getting back into that baseball shape."

Avila believes he will catch in a game before the White Sox break camp from Arizona.

Jennings looking like the long man

With an eighth reliever and 13th pitcher unlikely to break camp with the White Sox, Dan Jennings appears to be the team's de facto long man.

"A few of them have to, because we don't have the typical long guy," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who also could turn to Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam or even Matt Albers. "There's going to be a couple guys who have to be able to do a couple innings apiece."

Jennings had seven games of at least two innings pitched last season. His high stood at 3 2/3 innings on July 18, and he's prepared to take on that role again.

"[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] knows that we have a group of guys that will go out there and keep pitching as long as it's needed," Jennings said. "Coop knows he's got that out of me, for sure. He knows I want the ball, and he always knows I'll keep asking to go back out until he tells me absolutely not.

"Guys here that we have, they have that mentality to do that, and definitely have the ability to do that. It's a good thing to have."

Resting Abreu -- at DH

Jose Abreu's preference would be to make every start at first base. But with one scheduled team day off during April, the White Sox understand they will have to get him off his feet from time to time in the designated hitter role.

Abreu's solo homer

"He doesn't necessarily enjoy it," Ventura said. "But you realize he's always better and a little bit fresher and it's better for him mentally to have it, too.

"Usually we can tell when he needs it, by his mannerisms and talking to him. You have to be able to pick those times when he realizes he needs it."

Smith returns

The White Sox have accepted back right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, who was selected by San Diego in the December Rule 5 Draft. Smith will report to Minor League camp. Smith, 28, began his career as an outfielder but started pitching in 2013.

They said it

"Any time you ask me how I'm feeling, it's going to be, 'I'm good,' and that's all you're going to get." -- Avila, who doesn't like talking about injuries.

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