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Guillen says 'pen is key to Sox success

Guillen: 'Pen is key to success

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ozzie Guillen wanted to talk about pitching during his 30-minute Winter Meeting interview session Tuesday at the Swan and Dolphin Resort on the Disney World grounds.

That favorite topic for the White Sox manager shouldn't surprise anyone who watched how the South Siders claimed their first World Series title in almost 90 years back in 2005. In fact, Guillen believes the team currently in place can win again, with one significant difference.

"If we have a better bullpen, yes," said Guillen, whose bullpen fell off last year with injuries to Cliff Politte and Dustin Hermanson and Neal Cotts' ineffectiveness. "I think we were a little short in the bullpen, but if it gets stronger, we have a shot."

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Guillen seemed pleased with the addition of David Aardsma from the Cubs but added the White Sox still might need another right-hander to compensate for the loss of Politte and Hermanson. A strong bullpen, in Guillen's mind, not only stands as the key to White Sox success but also remains crucial in winning the pitching-rich American League Central.

In order to back up his assessment, Guillen simply pointed to the Twins' success over the past few years with relievers Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain, to name a few, and the Tigers' rise to prominence behind successful bullpen arms such as Todd Jones and Joel Zumaya. Of course, having a deep starting pitching staff doesn't hurt the cause.

Two baseball sources confirmed to MLB.com that both the Yankees and the Mets have interest in White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, although a source close to the White Sox advised not to read too much into that particular interest. Guillen echoed GM Ken Williams' familiar mantra, in that a plethora of pitching riches doesn't necessarily mean any of them have to be depleted.

And Guillen clearly has heard all the rumors involving the imminent departures of Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and/or Javier Vazquez, before and during the Winter Meetings.

"Freddy Garcia has been traded to 30 teams, Vazquez to 20 and Garland to seven," said Guillen with a smile. "It's one thing about it, everyone thinks we are dealing our pitchers.

"Kenny and Jerry and our organization truly believe nobody in baseball can win without pitching. The six guys [including Brandon McCarthy] are very important. Some people think we have six, so then we have to make any deal for our pitching.

"If the deal is good for the organization, then Kenny might think about it," Guillen added. "If people think we came here to trade a pitcher or throw one away just because, they are wrong."

Issues away from the mound also were talked about by Guillen. His current plan is to return to last year's original batting order, with Jermaine Dye back in the fifth slot and Jim Thome hitting third. Guillen mentioned Tadahito Iguchi as a possible leadoff candidate because of his ability to get on base, but he quickly added that Scott Podsednik would fill this particular void if the season began today.

Podsednik also was identified by Guillen as a player who needs to step up in 2007 -- especially with the power sitting behind him in the lineup -- along with shortstop Juan Uribe and center fielder Brian Anderson.

"I'm just looking for the guys in the top and the bottom of the lineup that have to be better," Guillen said. "You know, we were outstanding in the middle of the lineup and we were real poor in first, eight and nine."

Ultimately, though, it comes back to pitching for Guillen. As far as Guillen is concerned, he doesn't care if that pitching involves left-handers or right-handers -- just as long as they provide him and the White Sox quality efforts toward their championship goal.

"Give me all righties, as long as they're good. Give me all lefties, as long as they're good," Guillen said. "I don't want to have a lefty just to have a lefty. Like I said during the season, anybody in my rotation, if you let them go, there's a lot of teams that want to grab them.

"We've got a special thing going on, and hopefully we keep it," Guillen added.

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

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