The afternoon contest at U.S. Cellular Field against the Indians, with a weather forecast for 50 degrees and mostly cloudy, also means Ozzie Guillen and the team can focus on baseball and no longer agonize over fitting eight deserving players into the final three roster spots. At least, the White Sox hope the focus is on the field.
Monday's first pitch also brings the unofficial deadline for the final contract talks with potential free agents in Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye and Tadahito Iguchi until after the completion of the 2007 season. The date was put out there by general manager Ken Williams and the players themselves in order to deal with nothing but baseball when the games start to count.
As of Monday, the news remained the same as the past four or five weeks with no new contract offers being exchanged between this trio and the team. While Williams and Guillen steadfastly want to avoid the contracts becoming an overriding distraction, Williams said recently that he wouldn't be against listening to an interesting offer brought to him during the regular season.
"Never say never," Williams said. "The door is open until the first day, the first pitch. I would certainly like it closed and discussions to end and I'll be done with it. But you never say 'Never.'"
The team picked up a $9.5 million option for Buehrle, who turned 28 on March 24, during the offseason, and did the same with a $7 million option for Dye, 33, and a $3.25 million option for Iguchi, 32. With the end of Spring Training fast approaching, neither Dye nor Iguchi seem to have much of a feel as to where they will be suiting up in 2008.
The duo also doesn't seem to let it bother them for a moment in the present.
"In the end, I'm a baseball player," said Iguchi through translator David Yamamoto. "To play and help the team, that's my main job. I'm more focused on that. Contracts and stuff like that, that's for agents and those people to handle. That doesn't come down to me."
"I don't ever want to talk about contracts during the season," added Dye, who is coming off the best single season of his stellar career, with a .315 average, 44 home runs and 120 RBIs. "I expect to play the season out and then probably become a free agent at the end of the year. But my job is to put this uniform on, play for this team and give 100 percent for this club and at the end of the year, re-evaluate."
Since the outset of Spring Training, when all three players addressed their status with varied degrees of regularity, Williams made it clear that the White Sox door was open and the team would listen to any offer brought to them. Buehrle's camp, led by agent Jeff Barry, countered by saying their door also was open.
From the ace left-hander's point of view, there wasn't really much optimism for a spring extension to be reached.
"The way I look at it is that it has kind of been over since the beginning," Buehrle said. "In talking to you guys ... [Williams] is saying their door is open and our door is open. Pretty much from the get go, I was like, 'It's out the window.'"
Getting close: Comments from both Guillen and Williams prior to Monday's Cactus League game in Scottsdale seem to indicate that Brian Anderson will break camp as the 25th man on the White Sox roster, being used in a reserve role. Williams went as far as to say that some decision had been made but just hadn't been announced.
A primary concern surrounding Anderson was the second-year Major Leaguer handling reduced playing time with Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad starting, while still getting the needed amount of at-bats for his continued development. But Williams' primary focus is taking the 25 players who give his team the best chance to win, with Anderson's stellar outfield defense apparently making him part of that group.
"There are times when you just have to push development thoughts and understand where a guy is in his evolution and where the team is and its goals and you just try to make the best decision," Williams said. "And that's what we're going to do. Whoever gives us the best chance."
"I want to keep either [Luis] Terrero or Brian," added Guillen of the final roster battle. "I don't care if Brian is going to be a backup man this year or a platoon guy. As long as we have the best thing this year to have a good year, I will keep Brian."
Anderson chose not to read too much into the comments until the news became official, which could come as soon as Wednesday morning.
"I've definitely brought this upon myself, so I deserve to have to do what I'm doing," Anderson said. "I shouldn't have had anything handed to me."
Unfortunate accident: Toby Hall was moved from his starting catcher's position to first base in the seventh inning of Sunday's Cactus League contest against Texas, replacing Eduardo Perez with the primary purpose of getting Hall a few extra at-bats. Hall was at first base in the ninth inning when he suffered an apparent season-ending torn labrum while diving for Ramon Vazquez's ground ball.
But nobody in the organization questioned Hall's presence at first, a position he actually could have been used at on a rare occasion or two during the regular season.
"Actually, his chances of getting hurt at first are far less than they are behind the plate," said Williams of Hall's injury. "As ironic as it is, I don't think it adds anything to it just because he was over there. It's just an unfortunate situation for everyone concerned."
A.J. Pierzynski was even more strident in his response when asked about the serious injury being directly tied to the backup catcher's presence at first base.
"[Hall] played a whole game over there [previously], and [Ozzie] was just trying to get him at-bats and give him kind of a break," Pierzynski said. "It was just a bad luck thing and it happened. Ozzie shouldn't draw any blame at all. It's just one of those freak accidents.
"Heck, I could go out right now and get hit by a car walking down the street," Pierzynski added.
Around the horn: Juan Uribe felt no discomfort in his right calf after leaving Sunday's game early with a mild strain and will play in a game Tuesday. "It's nothing big," Uribe said. ... David Aardsma and Andrew Sisco, both battling for the final two bullpen slots, threw one scoreless inning apiece Monday. ... Javier Vazquez fanned Barry Bonds twice amongst his six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings pitched against the Giants on Monday. "Barry is a great hitter, but they have a great lineup," said Vazquez, who allowed three runs on seven hits. "The whole lineup was a very good test." ... Jose Contreras will throw to Pierzynski in a Minor League game in Tucson on Tuesday.
Up next: The fifth starter slot has been filled by John Danks, but Gavin Floyd still could earn a long relief job with the help of an impressive start Tuesday in Tempe against the Angels. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less