Uribe, Ramirez second to none
Pair are front-runners in battle for starting infield job
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Ozzie Guillen's comments to reporters in Maryvale on Monday seem to indicate the competitive field at second base has dwindled from four at the start of Spring Training to two, with Opening Day sitting a mere two weeks removed.
Juan Uribe looks to be the front-runner at the position, but the White Sox continue to be intrigued by the athletic possibilities produced by Alexei Ramirez. Pablo Ozuna has been tabbed as the team's utility infielder, and as for Danny Richar ...
His late arrival to camp due to visa problems getting out of the Dominican Republic, coupled with back problems limiting him to four Cactus League contests, just might leave Richar as Triple-A Charlotte's second baseman to begin the 2008 season.
"Going to be tough for him," Guillen said of Richar, who finished 1-for-4 against Milwaukee on Monday. "Now I've got to give at-bats for Ramirez, Ozuna and Uribe. It's going to be hard for me to give him the at-bats he deserves.
"He's got a short leash to go out and perform the way he can. He's got to get hot and perform. It's all about his injury. He's going to play a lot of games here and see how he tolerates the pain, and then we'll make the decision on what we're going to do."
According to Guillen's analysis, Uribe has turned in a great spring with the bat, and the White Sox manager is satisfied with Uribe's defense at second. Guillen's primary worry about Uribe is whether he can carry out this success for a full season, as he did during his first two years with the White Sox.
"That's the more important thing," Guillen said. "But it's going to be fun to watch those guys compete for a position."
Ramirez started in center field Monday, indicating he could be in mind for a utility role. Factoring in 12 pitchers, Ozuna and Toby Hall as reserve locks, Uribe at second and Jerry Owens as the starting center fielder, two roster spots exist between Brian Anderson, Ramirez and Carlos Quentin.
A major concern surrounding Ramirez was his ability to adjust defensively at second after moving over from shortstop, where he played in Cuba. But Guillen said Monday that he is seeing that necessary improvement in the field.
"Yes, yes. It's not like, 'Wow,' but he's gotten better," Guillen said of Ramirez. "He's a good ballplayer, a good athlete. He's not going to have problems. He continues to work every day out there.
"Every time we play this kid at any position, he goes out there and looks better than what we thought. He talked to me about it and said he'd like to play center field. He's a good center fielder.
"Before Spring Training is over, you will see him a couple more times to see how he feels, but like I say, you play shortstop, you can play anywhere. He's fine. We're going to find more spots for him to play a little more in the outfield."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.