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Guillen on board for youth movement

Guillen on board for youth movement

CHICAGO -- For those skeptics who don't totally believe in the White Sox commitment to youth for the 2009 season, manager Ozzie Guillen's words might prove a bit more convincing.

Guillen, in town Saturday to accept the 2008 Corporate Honoree on behalf of the White Sox organization at the 22nd Annual Easter Seals Holiday Gala, basically echoed general manager Ken Williams' comments made to MLB.com at the end of October. While the White Sox continue to explore all options for improvement on the open market, they are confident with potentially mixing in Josh Fields at third base, Chris Getz at second and either Jerry Owens or Brian Anderson in center field.

In fact, Guillen exhibited a genuine sense of excitement when asked about the youth infusion to his lineup already dotted with steady and productive veterans.

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"I love it, for two reasons," said Guillen, talking to a few media members prior to Saturday night's event at the Fairmont Hotel. "We have the people where we still can compete. And all of a sudden, we have to go more to our Minor League system and to our players to say we appreciate what you guys do for us -- all the coaches, instructors, scouts.

"Those guys deserve it, and they have the credentials to play here. That's not going to hurt the lineup."

Fields, 25, stands as the most accomplished performer of the young group, with his 23 home runs and 67 RBIs over 100 games and 373 at-bats as Joe Crede's replacement during the 2007 season. Fields was bothered by right knee soreness that severely hampered his '08 showing, but he had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in October, and he told MLB.com how being healthy will not only help him in the field but also on the basepaths.

An encouraging note for Guillen was that Fields already has contacted bench coach Joey Cora about taking offseason ground balls down in Florida, where all three men live during the offseason.

"Last year, I was disappointed with Josh, because he went backwards a little bit defensively," said Guillen, who acknowledged Fields was hampered in the field by his knee soreness. "I saw all the work he put in [during Spring Training], six in the morning every day, and all of a sudden you forget about what you did. We talked to him and told Josh, 'Make it easy for Kenny and myself. We want to play you there.'"

Anderson broke camp in 2006 as the team's starting center fielder and, after battling through struggles with the bat and adjusting to a reserve role, the 26-year-old filled a significant part-time, full-time job responsibility as a late-inning defensive replacement and spot starter against left-handers on the '08 American League Central champions.

Owens, 28, had his 2008 campaign cut short before it started because of groin problems, after stealing 32 bases for the White Sox in 93 games the previous year. Getz, 25, impressed at Triple-A Charlotte this past season with a .302 average and 11 stolen bases, while also leaving a lasting impression on Guillen during his late-season callup.

"Of all the bunch, and I saw them all play, they have a chance," Guillen said. "But what Getz showed me in one week -- I really like the way he played.

"[If] we move [Alexei Ramirez] to shortstop, I don't mind having Getz there [at second] and have someone help him a little bit."

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This "help" for Getz could come from offseason acquisitions such as veteran Wilson Betemit or Jayson Nix, 26, cut loose by the Rockies and added on by the South Siders. Guillen also spoke highly of Aaron Poreda, the White Sox hard-throwing top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, as a bullpen option, not to mention Jeff Marquez, picked up from the Yankees with Betemit in the Nick Swisher deal, as a fifth-starter contender.

Dayan Viciedo, the 19-year-old phenom from Cuba whose signing has not yet been made official by the team, also could provide a boost to the White Sox. But he would be a bit of a long shot to break camp with the team.

Back around Halloween, Williams' comments on the team's youthful changes were taken by many people as the general manager's stealth maneuvering as he worked on a major deal.

And with the Winter Meetings sitting two weeks away, Williams still could change the look for any of these three targeted positions. For now, Guillen likes the younger support to complement the likes of Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome.

"My job is not to tell Kenny Williams what to do, but it's something I want to do. We've been talking about this since May or June of last year," Guillen said. "When you are a manager, you always want to have superstars, but let's give these kids a chance.

"They still have to play good enough in Spring Training to convince me they can play in the big leagues. We aren't doing this to go younger or to go cheaper. If they don't take advantage of the shot, they are not going to be there. We have to move to Plan B or Plan C. But we have the key guys in the lineup who can help them."

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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