CHICAGO -- A debate has existed pretty much from the start of this disappointing White Sox season as to whether the sub-standard offense, defense or baserunning has been the most detrimental to the team's overall cause.
During an 11-minute session with the media at U.S. Cellular Field prior to Monday's series opener against the Tigers, general manager Rick Hahn couldn't pick among the three problem areas. It's a discussion he doesn't want to have again in 2014.
"Unfortunately, we have a number of areas that we need to upgrade, and you have named three at the top of the list," Hahn said. "Where we have performed offensively, obviously being at the bottom of the league in runs scored, how we've performed defensively and how we've performed on the bases has been well below our expectations and well below acceptable.
"So we have a fair amount of work to do, and we realize that. It's something that because of the way the season has gone, we have had a little extra time to prepare for what we wanted to do. We were able to do some of it at the [July 31] Trade Deadline and hopefully come October and November, we will continue down that path."
Because of the White Sox being out of contention since the All-Star break, they already have begun their reshaping process. They moved veterans such as Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton to not only free up some payroll moving forward but also provide opportunities for young players to prove their mettle at the big league level.
Erik Johnson makes his second Major League start Tuesday night against the Tigers.
Marcus Semien figures to get plenty of starts around the infield over the final 20 games.
Josh Phegley has taken over as the White Sox starting catcher.
Jake Petricka and Daniel Webb are trying to assert themselves in future bullpen roles, while Andre Rienzo is trying to state his case to be part of the 2014 rotation.
And Avisail Garcia, the South Siders' most important return as part of the three-team deal that sent Peavy to Boston, carries a .345 average since Aug. 13 into the series against his former team. The White Sox will not look to turn things around on youth alone, although Hahn wouldn't specify a free agent or trade route to be taken during this expected busy upcoming offseason. The process could feature a little bit from both columns.
"We will have to wait for the market to open and then we will see," said Hahn about White Sox free-agent pursuits. "Again, we have work to do especially on the position-player side of things, and the main avenues outside the farm system are free agency and trades. Given our expectations and the amount of work we have to do, I think we'll be active in both.
"At the Trade Deadline, we heard a lot about our young pitching, and I suspect that will continue into the offseason and we will remain open minded about all of it. While it's a strength and might be a strength to dip into a little bit to help augment other needs, it's not one we want to compromise too greatly because that is how we feel ultimately we will compete."
Through this dismal showing, which saw the White Sox officially eliminated via Tampa Bay's win Sunday, the team has proven to have a solid pitching core. That pitching gives Hahn and the White Sox at least one platform to move from in regard to getting back into American League Central contention without a full-on rebuilding process.
Hahn indicated conversations about the future for Paul Konerko and assessment of the White Sox coaching staff will come at the season's end. He joked that his wife pointed out more gray up top in his hair, as opposed to just on his sides, as a possible result of this trying season.
It's been as difficult for him as any player or fan watching from April to September.
"I'm no different from any fan or anyone in the front office or player who's suffered through a season that's been gut-wrenching," Hahn said. "It's been very difficult.
"I try to look at it from the perspective of what we have in front of us now is a tremendous opportunity and a chance to address some of the issues we have and areas we need to get better in. Frankly, we're starting with a little bit of an advantage given the pitching, as well as a bit of a blank slate in terms of a lot of areas that need to be improved.
"Certainly it's been trying, one that's hard to sit through," Hahn said. "It's going to provide us with some opportunities to get better in the near future."
Third to first
• Pitching coach Don Cooper returned to the White Sox dugout after a flare up of early-season stomach issues that cost him 10 games. He missed three games in Baltimore over the weekend.
"He seems fine," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He was going to go get checked. If he feels good enough, he'll be here today. So that's good."
• Garcia had root canals performed on two different teeth Monday, keeping him out of action against the Tigers.
"We're going to let him relax and not do anything today," Ventura said. "So, hopefully tomorrow he'll be able to play."
• Adam Dunn explained his non-retirement comments once again before the start of this 10-game homestand. Dunn stressed how the only point he was trying to make was that if the game no longer was enjoyable for him, he would walk away regardless of stats or money owed to him.
"Probably the first time I ever said those words, I was probably 22 years old," Dunn said. "The day that I'm not having fun, the day that I walk into a locker room and it's tough for me to show up or the competitive juices aren't flowing, I'm leaving. I'm going home.
"For some reason, people take that as I'm retiring. Is this year hard? Yeah, it's hard. Has it been one of the harder ones? Yeah, because the expectations that we had in this locker room were so high. To play like we are playing, it's a huge letdown. I don't know where that comes into that I'm retiring."