GLENDALE, Ariz. — A White Sox scouting presence at the Yankees' spring training game against Florida State on Tuesday sparked the team's first prominent trade rumor of the exhibition season, with the New York Post speculating the Sox could be looking to deal some infield depth for the Yankees' catching depth.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn downplayed the report Wednesday, saying the Sox will have scouts all over in the coming weeks.
"You won't be able to throw a stick at some of these games without hitting a White Sox scout," Hahn said. "That doesn't mean there's anything imminent. It just means we're doing our due diligence. ... This is the first chance to update some of our reports from the past as these games get going and we'll have a presence at all of them."
Hahn said trades at the beginning of spring training are an exception rather than a rule, but they could develop because of a late free agent market. A deal remains a possibility for the Sox, who have a stockpile of infielders and outfielders but might want to add a catcher to their mix with Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley.
"It's not something we're counting on, but (we could) if the right situation arises."
New project: The Sox made a minor move Wednesday when they claimed right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto off waivers from the Royals.
The 24-year-old Cleto, whom Hahn deemed a big arm but a "bit of a project," went 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 35 games last season at the Triple-A level in the Royals and Cardinals systems. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound native of the Dominican Republic is expected to join the Sox on Thursday.
"He's a little inconsistent with his delivery, at times doesn't quite know where it's going, and it's just a matter of trying to clean up a few things," Hahn said. "(Pitching coach Don Cooper) and our minor-league pitching coaches have a pretty good track record of helping guys like this, so why not bring in another big arm at a low cost and see what we can figure out over the next four to five weeks?"
Cleto was part of a bench-clearing brawl in June with the Cardinals' Triple-A team and was handed a three-game suspension for his role. Hahn said the Sox aren't concerned about his background as of now.
"If we solely based our personnel decisions on guys' reputations or things that happened elsewhere that we're not fully informed of, there would be a handful of guys in pictures around me (in the hallway of the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch) who wouldn't be in a White Sox uniform," Hahn said. "We tend to make our own judgments."
The Sox also designated infielder Jake Elmore for assignment. The Sox had claimed Elmore off waivers from the Astros in mid-November, but Hahn said middle infield depth "squeezed (him) out."
Extra innings: Sox manager Robin Ventura will be tinkering with lineups in the coming days, but he said there is a chance outfielder Avisail Garcia could hit third - or even second. "He has that kind of approach at the plate," Ventura said. "He does have some speed you can utilize there." ... The Sox announced they will bring back their 1983 throwback jerseys as alternate uniforms this season. The uniform includes a new cap with the "batter man" logo on it.