Notes: Fields doesn't sign contract offer
Third baseman insists no hard feelings with management
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Twenty-one players agreed to one-year contracts with the White Sox on Wednesday, the sort of standard news expected to come early on in Cactus League action for players with less than three years of service.
But it was Josh Fields' decision not to sign off on his contract which drew the most attention. Fields' move, made in conjunction with Jeff Berry, his agent, means the White Sox will renew his contract on March 2. The second-year third baseman said the final call on the matter ultimately belonged to him, but all sides understood the situation following a call with Fields, Berry and assistant general manager Rick Hahn.
This move is more about posturing for future contracts, such as if the two sides some day go to arbitration. Fields explained how it had nothing to do with trying to send a message to the organization for more money.
"It was a decision, you know, I pay my agent for a reason," Fields said. "He kind of thought that was the best decision for us.
"There really wasn't a specific reason. He did the same thing with [Mark] Buehrle back in the day, and he has a reason behind why he does it. It's no disrespect between the White Sox and us. It's just a thing we decided to do and chose to do."
Fields chuckled when it was mentioned to him how only two players in this particular service time category have chosen not to sign with the White Sox over the last eight years, and they both were Berry clients. But Fields does not view Wednesday's news as any sort of big deal, hoping there's nothing to talk about down the line in regard to contractual squabbles.
"Other people may view it as disrespect from me to the White Sox or disrespect from the White Sox to me, but it's not like that at all," Fields said. "It's something we can choose to do and it's something we chose to do."
Focus on the field: Bobby Jenks set a franchise record with the largest one-year deal for a player with two years of service, when the White Sox and closer agreed to a $550,000 deal. Jenks did not seem bothered by the lack of a multi-year deal for the team's most important bullpen piece, and also seemed more inclined to talk about pitching than contractual matters.
"Yeah, it's part of the deal," Jenks said. "Getting ready for the season, that's all that matters right now. It's between the front office and my agent. I worry about what I do on the field and let them take care of the rest.
"Whatever I can do to help the team right now ... I go out there and get three outs in the ninth. That's what I do. I don't worry about that [contractual] stuff. I let my attitude on the field dictate what I get later on."
Jenks, who will be arbitration-eligible in 2009, threw one scoreless inning during his Cactus League debut Wednesday against Colorado.
"I feel great," Jenks said. "It's the best I have felt during the three years I've been here."
Early scratch: Non-roster invite Jason Bourgeois replaced Jerry Owens in Wednesday's starting lineup, both in center field and in the leadoff spot, as Owens continued to be bothered by right groin soreness.
Owens said the plan is to continue testing the injury and then give White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider an update on his condition. Owens added he can do everything but explode with his speed right now, but doesn't want to risk doing more damage to the most important part of his game.
"That's the biggest thing," Owens said. "I don't want it to be June 15 and still dealing with the groin.
"For the time being, I talked to Ozzie [Guillen, manager] and Kenny [Williams, general manager], and they both want me to be healthy. My game is my legs and me being 60 percent won't give my team any help. I don't want it to carry on into the season."
Slow out of the gate: Soreness in Matt Thornton's elbow prior to arriving in Tucson has limited the hard-throwing southpaw to side sessions through the first week of the Cactus League season. Thornton said Wednesday that the pain was no reason for concern, and he should be back in game action by the middle of next week at the latest.
"I got it taken care of and it set me back a little bit and I didn't throw for a little bit," Thornton said. "And then Herm got me on a throwing program that I just finished up and now I'm letting the reins loose and I'm ready to go.
"I'm just a little behind. That's all."
Around the horn: John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Ehren Wasserman, Danny Richar, Brian Anderson, Carlos Quentin and Owens highlighted the list of other players who signed off on one-year deals.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.