Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training
Pitchers and catchers in the Chicago White Sox system reported to Arizona today (Saturday, February 15) — thus officially starting Spring Training! The 2014 season is going to be a special year throughout the organization. The White Sox have made some key offseason additions to their squad and are ready to compete in the American League Central.
As for the Charlotte Knights, the 2014 season is quite possibly the most anticipated one in the history of the franchise. After playing just one season in Charlotte (1988), the Knights have spent the past 25 seasons across the state line in Fort Mill, SC. Well now, the Knights are back home and Opening Day is less than two months away (April 11).
The excitement is building each day in Uptown Charlotte. Our front office staff moved into our new offices at BB&T Ballpark at the beginning of the month, the ballpark is about 98% done, and it just gets more real by the minute. With all that being said, today is the day that it officially gets real. Pitchers and catchers are in Arizona and baseball is closer than ever.
Let’s take a look at a pitcher and a catcher who have both spent time with the White Sox over the past two seasons. Each of these players report to White Sox camp as non-roster invitees. Neither of these players are on Chicago’s 40-man roster, but each of them has had a spot on Chicago’s roster over the past two seasons.
Deunte Heath has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Charlotte Knights (2011-13). The 28-year-old right-hander was recently outrighted off of Chicago’s 40-man roster (February 7) when they signed RHP Mitchell Boggs. With Boggs taking Heath’s 40-man roster spot, the Georgia native will now go to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee looking to win a spot in Chicago’s bullpen this year.
Heath has spent parts of the last seven seasons in the minors and owns a career Minor League mark of 31-35 with a 3.82 ERA and 11 saves over 221 games. He won a season-high 13 games in 2008 split between Myrtle Beach (A+) and Mississippi (AA), while in the Braves organization.
After appearing as a starter for five of those seven Minor League seasons, Heath was moved to the bullpen in 2012 and excelled at his new role. In 36 games for the Knights in 2012, he posted a 4-3 record with three saves and a minuscule 1.48 ERA. He fanned 74 batters in 67.0 innings.
Later that season, Heath made his Major League debut (September 1) and compiled a 4.50 ERA in three games (two innings pitched). He was once again back with the Knights in 2013 and once again excelled on the mound out of the Charlotte bullpen. In 30 games, he posted a 2-1 record with a 2.20 ERA and four saves. He finished a season-high 19 games.
Heath made five appearances for the White Sox last year and finished the campaign with an ERA of 11.74 in 7.2 innings. He has just eight games and 9.2 innings of Major League time after two seasons and will look to get back to Chicago again this year to contribute.
For a third-straight season, Hector Gimenez is back in camp with the Chicago White Sox. Gimenez will look to make it back to the majors after he began 2013 on Chicago’s Opening Day roster as the backup to catcher Tyler Flowers. After appearing in just five games for the White Sox a season before that (2012), Gimenez was ready for more of a role in 2013. He played in 26 games for the White Sox and hit .191 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Things changed however in July.
With the torrid hitting pace of Josh Phegley at the Triple-A level, Gimenez and Phegley switched teams in July, with Gimenez going to Charlotte to make way for the young catcher in Chicago. Gimenez appeared in just five games for Charlotte before an injury placed him on the DL on July 22. He never returned to the field in 2013.
The White Sox have a crowded catching scenario with six backstops heading in Major League camp. This year’s crop includes Flowers, Phegley, Adrian Nieto — a 2013 Rule 5 Draft selection, as well as non-roster invitees Gimenez, Miguel Gonzalez, and Kevan Smith. All but Nieto and Smith played in Chicago at some point last season. There are decisions to be made this spring on just who the White Sox will break camp with.
So, who will be the starter and bench player at the Major League level and which players will end up in Charlotte. Only time will tell. That’s Spring Training for you!