Notes: Fields on the move
Rookie makes first start in left field in Red Sox finale
CHICAGO -- With the White Sox continuing to stumble along in the present of this difficult 2007 season, the organization made a move Sunday to take an extended look at an important possibility for future success.
Josh Fields was switched from third base to left field as part of the White Sox starting lineup for the series finale against the Red Sox. The move marked Fields' first appearance in left field at any level of play this season and just the second of his Major League career, getting a few innings last year during a game in September.
But it certainly won't be Fields' only outfield chance during the season's final five weeks.
"I don't think you'll see him at third base unless there's some extreme emergency," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Fields' semi-permanent move. "We'll see what we can get and what we can count on for next year."
Fields' position switch certainly would not be considered a surprise, aside from the time at which it happened. Just a little less than two weeks ago, general manager Ken Williams talked in Oakland about not moving Fields from third in 2007 because of the present uncertainty as to how Joe Crede will bounce back from back surgery.
Assuming Crede comes back healthy and ready to perform at a high level again in 2008, there's no doubt one of the best defensive third baseman in the game would belong back at the hot corner for the White Sox. Fields, though, would not benefit from another season in the Minors, especially with the way he has been swinging the bat, meaning left field would be an option.
Playing Fields in left during the season's final weeks gives him a chance to experience the outfields in frequently-visited ballparks such as Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota.
A form of this message was conveyed to Fields on Saturday afternoon, following Guillen's brief clubhouse chat with the team.
"He said, 'Go out and relax and don't worry about making mistakes because we are the ones putting you out there,'" said Fields of his talk with Guillen. "I don't know if I'll be there for a while or what, but today, I'll go out there and try to shed the sun and catch the ball."
"It's an opportunity, and he handled it real well," Guillen added.
By Fields' estimation, he has played 30 games in left field between the Minor Leagues and this past winter ball season in Venezuela. Fields had been developing defensively at third base, under the guidance of bench coach Joey Cora, but his defense still would not come close to match a healthy Crede.
As a one-time All-Conference quarterback for Oklahoma St., Fields certainly appears to have the athletic ability to adapt quickly to the outfield.
"I had a lot of fun," said Fields of playing left in Venezuela, who added he would mess around with the fans when he played there. "At third base, you are kind of locked in. You can't do too much besides wearing a ball off of your face. In left, you have a little more time.
"Of course, you want to care where you are playing and stuff, but I mean, if they tell me to go play left, I'm not going to [complain] about it or anything. I'm in the big leagues. I'll play left, catch, whatever."
Trickle-down effect: The move to left for Fields also holds direct ramifications for both Andy Gonzalez and Scott Podsednik. Gonzalez figures to get most of the remaining playing time at third base, with no prospects Major League-ready for a September call-up.
Podsednik's playing time probably will decrease, although the left fielder continues to be on day-to-day availability with a strained right rib-cage muscle. If Fields succeeds in left, the change would signal the end of Podsednik's time in Chicago.
"Hey, he's not healthy so we need someone to go out there," said Guillen of Podsednik. "When he's healthy, I'll give him some at-bats. I don't know how much I'll play him.
"When he's back and ready to go, I'll pick my spots to play him," Guillen added.
Staying home: Even with the potential position switch at hand, Fields does not intend to return to winter ball. Fields put in some work with Mark Teahen last offseason, the same Teahen who successfully made the transition from third to right field for Kansas City.
Expected return: Alex Cintron won't come back from his absence on the bereavement list until Friday's series opener in Cleveland. Cintron, who also will receive September playing time at third, was placed on the bereavement list prior to Tuesday's game against Kansas City to take care of family matters.
"Alex is the only child in his family. He supports his family," Guillen said. "His grandfather, who passed away, is the one who raised him and now his mother has got some problems. When he gets here, I don't want him to think about anything else."
Around the horn: Jim Thome returned to the White Sox lineup Sunday afternoon, after missing the first three games of the series with back spasms. ... The White Sox have allowed 10 or more runs in three straight games for the first time since May 17-22, 1999. At that point, the Indians scored 13 in each game of a three-game sweep and the Yankees followed up with 10 runs. ... Entering Sunday, the White Sox were hitting .204 against Boston this season and had a 9.75 ERA.
Down on the farm: By allowing just two runs on nine hits over seven innings Saturday night, Heath Phillips improved to 12-7 overall and 7-0 in his last 10 starts during Triple-A Charlotte's 6-2 victory at Richmond. Phillips leads the International League with 167 innings pitched and has a 2.27 ERA over his last 63 1/3 innings. ... Gio Gonzalez, who leads the Southern League with 177 strikeouts, fanned eight during seven scoreless innings in Double-A Birmingham's 2-0 win over Mississippi. Adam Russell saved the victory for reliever Oneli Perez, with David Cook picking up his 17th RBI in 20 games with the Barons. ... Christian Marrero doubled and drove in two, as the first-place squad from Great Falls claimed a 6-3 victory over Helena. Great Falls currently holds a 4 1/2-game lead.
On deck: Jose Contreras (6-16, 6.18 ERA) makes his 24th start of the season during Monday afternoon's rescheduled contest against Tampa Bay, bringing with him the Major League lead in losses. The right-hander has an 0-9 record with a 9.17 ERA in his last nine starts. Edwin Jackson starts for the Rays in the 1:05 CT game.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.