Could the Chicago White Sox Do The Unthinkable? A Look At Their 25-Man Roster

The Chicago White Sox aren't expected to officially announce their 25-man roster until Wednesday. But, assuming a shocking trade or unanticipated waiver claim doesn't go down before then, it appears the South Siders could do something that so many MLB teams seem to believe is unthinkable: Carry an 11-man pitching staff.

If you're more of a casual baseball fan, you may not immediately see this as a big deal. (And it's really not, but please indulge me.) Basically, in decades past, an 11-man pitching staff (five starters and six relievers) was more the norm. Managers were much more apt to let their starting pitchers go longer into games and, when that was clearly inadvisable, they'd still allow a relief pitcher to come in and throw three or four innings himself -- the near-mythical "long reliever."

In recent years, however, pitching has become much more specialized. Of course, teams now have the LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy; a left-handed reliever who specializes in retiring left-handed hitters.) But they also tend to stock their bullpens with multiple power arms who can throw in the mid-90s for an inning or two rather than save a spot for the aforementioned long reliever.

If I may wildly speculate for a moment, I'd guess this tendency may have partly come about as a response to the Steroid Era, when managers and their staffs were desperate for any means to counteract the widespread slugging of the Bonds, McGwires and Sosas of that era. Perhaps now that baseball seems to be settling into a more pitching-focused phase, we could again see the rosters with an "extra" position player and a smaller bullpen.

Or maybe it's just a 2011 White Sox thing. All spring long, a bench battle has raged between former top prospect Lastings Milledge, signed to a minor league deal, and Brent Lillibridge, who's still under team control but can't be sent to the minor leagues without the risk of another team claiming him. Although Milledge has had an outstanding spring and Lillibridge an unremarkable one, neither manager Ozzie Guillen nor GM Kenny Williams could apparently decide between the two. So the Sox will likely bring both north to Cleveland to start the season.

In addition, with Jake Peavy more than likely starting the season the DL, the team appears to be going with Phillip Humber as its fifth starter. But maybe manager Ozzie Guillen will attempt to navigate the opening month of the season with only four starters, allowing Humber and Tony Pena, the other Sox arm suitable for long relief, picking up multiple innings where necessary.  Another pitcher previously in the mix, Jeff Marquez, has been placed on waivers.

All in all, here's how the White Sox 25-man projects leading up to Wednesday's official announcement:

Starting lineup

1. Juan Pierre LF

2. Gordon Beckham 2B

3. Paul Konerko 1B

4. Adam Dunn DH

5. Carlos Quentin RF

6. Alex Rios CF

7. A.J. Pierzynski C

8. Alexei Ramirez SS

9. Brent Morel 3B

Bench

10. Ramon Castro C

11. Omar Vizquel IF

12. Lastings Milledge OF

13. Brent Lillibridge IF/OF

14. Mark Teahen IF/OF

Starting rotation

15. Mark Buehrle LHP

16. John Danks LHP

17. Gavin Floyd RHP

18. Edwin Jackson RHP

19. Phillip Humber RH

Bullpen

20. Matt Thornton LHP

21. Chris Sale LHP

22.. Will Ohman LHP

23. Jesse Crain RHP

24. Sergio Santos RHP

25. Tony Pena RHP

As you can see, it's a roster with great positional flexibility. Four of the five guys on the bench can play multiple positions credibly and two of them can even play in the infield or the outfield. In fact, one wonders if there's too much positional flexibility given the fact that everyone in the starting lineup appears to be healthy and no one seems likely to be sent packing in a trade. How many at-bats are all these guys going to get? (For a closer look and deeper discussion of this issue, check out this post at South Side Sox.)

More than likely, it's a problem Ozzie is happy to have. And, as the cliche goes, the team that leaves Arizona at the end of March is virtually never the one that crosses the finish line in September. Changes will almost certainly occur. But looking at that roster, you can see why the Sox are the prohibitive favorite in the AL Central. A lineup set to slug. A starting staff of four guys who are each capable of throwing a strong 200 innings. A well-balanced and refreshingly constructed bullpen. Can we start the season already?

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