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GM Rick Hahn sees White Sox right in thick of competitive Central

Chicago White Sox's Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn looks out over field from dugout before baseball game between Chicago White

Chicago White Sox's Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn looks out over the field from the dugout before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers Friday, June 3, 2011 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: April 28, 2013 6:49AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — General manager Rick Hahn was amused last spring when a scout said the White Sox ‘‘might lose 100 games.’’

He knows that his team, which will fly out of Arizona for Chicago on Wednesday, will be picked by most to finish behind the favored Detroit Tigers in the American League Central this season. Many prognosticators will peg them for third or fourth place.

Hahn’s not seeing it.

‘‘I honestly don’t worry too much about whatever publications put out, whatever the projections are for this year,’’ he said Tuesday. ‘‘We care a little more about what we see and what we project in terms of our performance and how we match up, and we feel confident about being in this thing till the end. We fully intend and believe we’re capable of making the postseason regardless of what any projections have.’’

The Kansas City Royals improved over the offseason and played like gangbusters this spring. The Cleveland Indians also made improvements — more than the Sox did. Hahn takes the optimistic view of that, seeing competitive balance working in the Sox’ favor.

‘‘They’re certainly right in saying that Detroit is the cream of the crop in this division and is the team we’re all hunting,’’ he said. ‘‘I also feel this division is more competitive this year, and because of that, nobody will run away and hide from anybody.’’

After the Sox won the World Series in 2005, ‘‘everyone projected us to win 100 games in ’06 and we were the hunted,’’ said Hahn, the assistant GM then. ‘‘Frankly, I prefer to kind of surprise people than have these expectations that we’re the team to beat.’’

Hahn is effectively saying the Sox are pretty good but not great. There’s no ‘‘all-in’’ campaign going on here — rather, the selling of a quality product that can increase its fan appeal as the season unfolds.

Right fielder Alex Rios’ stiff back, reliever Jesse Crain’s sore adductor, some overall shaky defense and a string of six losses in eight games in the last week-and-a-half took some luster off the Sox’ camp, but as the team gets on the charter Wednesday, Hahn will have a sense of satisfaction from what he’s seen during an extended spring training thanks to the World Baseball Classic.

‘‘We’ve been here a long time and are ready to get going,’’ Hahn said, suggesting the drag-on effect has taken some life out of the team. ‘‘But overall it’s been a very positive camp. We like what we have seen out of [Gordon] Beckham being able to maintain where he was with his swing last year. We like what [Tyler] Flowers has done behind the plate and offensively.’’

As for future Sox, Hahn cited right-hander Erik Johnson and outfielder Jared Mitchell for impressions made. He also mentioned right-handers Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo, outfielder Keenyn Walker and shortstop Marcus Semien.

For Hahn, signing Chris Sale — who made his final tuneup of the spring Tuesday against the Texas Rangers — to a contract extension also was a moment worth savoring.

Hahn said the physical setbacks for Crain and Rios don’t appear to be long-term, so he’s not looking at trades or moves in those areas.

‘‘Rios and Crain seem to be progressing nicely and at least right now are on pace to be ready Opening Day,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘If they are not, barring a setback, it likely will be a short-term stint on the DL, in which I don’t think it’s necessary to go outside. I think we have internal options we feel good about.

‘‘We are looking around outside for other upgrades, but they’re unrelated to any injury issues. I don’t expect anything to come through, but we are having discussions, so it’s possible.’’

WHITE SOX 11, RANGERS 3

FOR THE RECORD: The Sox (12-13-3) broke a three-game losing streak as Chris Sale improved to 4-0 (3.86 ERA) with four strong innings, allowing one hit, a homer by former Cub Geo Soto. Sale will make his first Opening Day start on Monday.

Taking the fifth: After the game, manager Robin Ventura made it official by saying right-hander Dylan Axelrod will follow Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana in the starting rotation. Lefty Hector Santiago, the other candidate for fifth starter, pitched the eighth and ninth innings and gave up two runs on six hits.

Sox power: Left fielder Dayan Viciedo doubled to right-center against starter Matt Harrison and hit a three-run homer against former Sox Jason Frasor. Angel Sanchez, who will make the team as the utility infielder, hit a home run and two singles. Adam Dunn beat a defensive shift with an extreme opposite-field double, grounding one over third base against Harrison to score Viciedo in the first.

The long and Short of it: Minor leaguer Brandon Short hit a three-run homer against Harrison in the fourth and a homer against Ross Wolf in the ninth. Short also corralled a wind-swept, table umbrella in right field. Short was playing for Alex Rios, who missed his fourth straight game with a stiff back.

Stay hot:

Jeff Keppinger hit two more singles, raising his average to .476.

On deck: The Sox close the Cactus League season against the Indians at 2:05 and fly to Chicago after the game. Minor league veteran Matt Zaleski will start. Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain will also pitch.



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