July 2009

Thursday tidbits; Clipping the Yankees

One thought went through Alexei Ramirez’s mind when he slid into second Wednesday night at the Metrodome, trying to break up a double play in the seventh inning of the loss.

“When it happened, I really thought it was a break or a fracture, but it isn’t,” said Ramirez, through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez following Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Yankees. “I’m just glad that it wasn’t as serious as I originally thought it was. It’s just a minor injury, and hopefully I can get back as soon as possible.”

Ramirez has a swollen ligament in the sprained right ankle, but has been able to put pressure on the injured area while walking on it in the pool during extensive work on Thursday. Ramirez said a return to action Sunday is possible, but he’s not setting any date–just going by how he feels.

“I don’t want to say one thing or the other as far as returning,” Ramirez said. “Right now, I just want to pay attention to how my heel feels. The heel is basically the base of where I step and how I step, so I just want to keep working on this, doing some stuff with (White Sox athletic trainer) Herm (Schneider) and hopefully be back as soon as possible.”

–Judging by the tone of Ozzie Guillen’s voice and the look on his face at this particular moment of Thursday’s pregame interview session, the White Sox will not be making another significant move before Friday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. CT.

“Yesterday, I told the guys joking around in the dugout, I said, ‘Don’t worry guys, it’s not your fault. It’s my fault for telling Kenny Williams I can win with this ballclub,'” Guillen said. “If you look at the road trip, we were inches away from winning five, six games. The balls don’t bounce our way.

“Ball on the line, inches away, bad pitch, inches away, a line drive yesterday. That’s the way it is. We didn’t play bad; we just have a couple of guys in the middle of the lineup struggling like everybody knows. We’re lucky enough that part of the lineup is producing the way they are right now, we’re pitching well. We just didn’t score enough runs to win. But in a long season, that’s what you’re going to get.”

When asked if his team, sitting one game over .500, was better than a .500 group, Guillen provided another definitive response.

“Yes we are,” Guillen said. “In the beginning of the season was tough. I never thought we’d play .500 by the way we played at the start of the season, to be honest with you.

“But we’re better than that. We started to play better than a .500 team. But .500 isn’t going to win it. If we’re going to win, we have to be over .500 easier because if stay .500 we’re not going to make the playoffs.”

–You have to appreciate the immense talent of Gordon Beckham, who is my pick for American League Rookie of the Year. But you also have to appreciate his zest for the game and his enjoyment at the big league level.

On Wednesday, Beckham told me that he planned to get a jersey and have Derek Jeter sign it for him. Jeter was one of the middle infielders Beckham had and has great respect for as he moved to the Majors.

Thome targets a Thursday return

Jim Thome hopes to be back in the White Sox starting lineup Thursday night at home against the Yankees and southpaw Andy Pettitte after missing the Minnesota series due to tightness in his lower back.

It’s a problem that has plagued the prolific slugger on a few occasions during his four-year tenure with the White Sox.

“Unfortunately, you know, this had to happen now,” Thome said. “Luckily, (White Sox athletic trainer) Hermie (Schneider) and I got on top of it right away and banged it out of there.”

Thome is batting .250 with 17 home runs and 59 RBIs. But at this point of the 2009 campaign, with the White Sox fighting for a playoff berth, Thome isn’t worried about individual numbers.

“It’s all about winning, that’s the bottom line,” Thome said. “You always want to have a nice year and you always want to do well, but ultimately you get into this time of year and you throw all that aside.

“You see new guys come in and it shows you this time of year is ultimately about winning. That’s the thing that frustrates me. You work so hard, but sometimes this stuff is out of your control. So, you do the best you can to get it out and work hard to get back.”

Bartolo Colon out; Randy Williams up

Bartolo Colon was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation retroactive to July 25, prior to Wednesday night’s series finale at the Metrodome, which basically means Clayton Richard’s exit from the starting rotation amounted to absolutely zero skipped starts.

My best guess is Gavin Floyd, who pitched Saturday in Detroit, will work the series opener against the Yankees on Thursday and Richard will pitch on Friday–both on regular rest. That leaves John Danks for Saturday and Mark Buehrle against CC Sabathia in a Sunday classic.

Ozzie Guillen didn’t want to go without a second left-hander out of the bullpen, so Randy Williams had his contract purchased from Triple-A Charlotte to replace Colon. Actually, with Matt Thornton home with his wife for the birth of their daughter, the White Sox had been going without a first lefty in the series.

There’s no doubt Richard has earned the right to stay in the rotation, and I’m guessing Colon might have made his last pitch for the White Sox. But that’s purely a guess on my part, and I guessed that before and was wrong, even with Freddy Garcia getting himself ready in the Minor Leagues.

Williams was one of the surprises of Spring Training as a non-roster invite. So, we will see how the southpaw produces now that he has joined the White Sox.

Anderson traded; Kotsay acquired

Brian Anderson got his wish to be traded, and in the process, the White Sox apparently have added a valuable veteran piece to their bench for the playoff push over the next two months.

Anderson, 27, was traded to Boston in exchange for Mark Kotsay and cash considerations on Tuesday. Kotsay, 33, is a .281 hitter with 110 home runs and 614 RBIs over 13 Major League seasons. He batted .257 with one homer and five RBIs in 27 games for the Red Sox in 2009 before being designated for assignment on July 24.

Kotsay’s arrival now makes either Dewayne Wise or Josh Fields expendable for Chicago. Kotsay ranks third among all Major League outfielders with his 113 assists since the start of the 1998 season, trailing Bobby Abreu (117) and Vladimir Guerrero (115), but also can back-up Paul Konerko at first base.

Of even greater importance is Kotsay’s .373 career average as a pinch-hitter, an extremely weak area for the White Sox at present. Wise had been serving as a defensive replacement and a left-handed hitting reserve outfielder, while Fields had been spelling both Jim Thome at designated hitter and Konerko at first base.

It was just five days ago when Anderson told MLB.com that he would like to be traded so he could get a fresh start at playing regularly somewhere else. For the moment, that start doesn’t look as if it will come in Boston, as the White Sox top pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft will be sent to the Minors. He hit .238 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 65 games before being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on July 20. Anderson is a career .225 hitter, with 20 homers and 75 RBIs in 334 games.

Dugout disagreement

All was not well in the White Sox dugout after a rough showing in the field during the second inning of Monday’s contest at the Metrodome.

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez had to be held back by Jermaine Dye from going after A.J. Pierzynski, after Pierzynski showed his verbal displeasure for Ramirez that was caught on tape by the Minnesota broadcast of the game. Pierzynski was shown saying something to Ramirez, even as Pierzynski was walking away, before Ramirez started moving toward Pierzynski. The White Sox had committed two errors leading to two unearned runs in the bottom of the second, but neither mistake had anything to do with Pierzynski or Ramirez.

Ozzie Guillen clearly was not happy with the entire situation, also caught on camera firing a towel down to the ground before kicking a bucket of gum on to the field just outside the dugout. The White Sox came back and took the lead after the dugout disagreement, with Paul Konerko’s two-run home run off of Glen Perkins giving the visitors a one-run advantage.

No lefty in the bullpen

Matt Thornton returned to Chicago Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter, leaving the White Sox without a left-handed reliever to combat Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel. Southpaw Clayton Richard, who still could move to the bullpen even after two stellar starts, was not available following his eight inning stint on Sunday in Detroit.

Pitching coach Don Cooper also is not with the team, returning home to deal with family matters.

Eight-man rotation? Not likely

I have to give credit to Mark Gonzales, my esteemed White Sox beat writing colleague and friend from the Chicago Tribune, for coming up with a funny image following Sunday’s 5-1 White Sox victory over Detroit.

Gonzales was talking about the picture from the 2005 White Sox World Series championship run that had all the starting pitchers holding baseballs with their arm outstretched in a group shot. He suggested if the White Sox took that same picture at this point this year, there might be eight guys in the picture.

Let’s see, there’s Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jose Contreras. Then, there’s Bartolo Colon and Clayton Richard, and don’t forget Freddy Garcia getting back into pitching form with Class A Kannapolis, and Carlos Torres looking pretty solid in his one start for the White Sox. Even Aaron Poreda started for Charlotte after being optioned down, so his time can’t be too far away.

Has any Major League team ever gone to an eight or nine-man rotation? With the way Ozzie Guillen likes to match up out of the bullpen, there’s no way the White Sox will go one short in relief and even have a six-man starting staff.

But with two straight strong outings under his belt, I don’t see how Richard can be moved back to the bullpen. Some would argue how Richard has been great for two starts, but where was he the eight prior to that one? He could be just as helpful as the second southpaw in relief. In this sort of tight division race, though, you have to ride the hot hand.

So, who becomes the expendable piece? I would say Colon, with all due respect to the highly successful veteran right-hander. He looked sharp on Friday, but I think you can get what he provides from Richard or even Garcia down the line. The problem for Colon is he can’t work in relief, and I’m not sure if the White Sox are ready to cut ties with him.

It should be an interesting call to make. Then again, Richard’s trade value probably never will be as high as it is right now.

Having too many quality starters certainly is a good problem to have.

No such thing as Minor news

Freddy Garcia turned in a solid first Minor League start for Class A Kannapolis on Sunday, allowing two hits and walking one over three scoreless innings. Garcia fanned three in the 95-degree heat and helped his own cause by inducing two double plays in Kannapolis’ 3-2 victory over Rome.

At Triple-A Charlotte, Brian Anderson is 6-for-19 with two home runs and five RBIs in the four games played since he was optioned to the Knights. Catcher Tyler Flowers is batting below .200 since his promotion to Charlotte.

Buehrle on Letterman, perfect game recognition

Mark Buehrle has yet to receive the official word confirming his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman this Monday. Buehrle would tape a show staple Top 10 list from Minneapolis, along with teammates Dewayne Wise and Josh Fields, in honor of Buehrle hurling the 18th perfect game in Major League Baseball history on Thursday against Tampa Bay.

Being the consummate teammate, Buehrle wanted chief contributors Wise (the catch) and Fields (the grand slam) to join him in this move into network television. But Buehrle had a second reason for their addition.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to (alone) because I don’t like reading that much stuff,” said Buehrle with a laugh. “My agent (Jeff Berry) is the one who hooked that all up. I don’t like doing that kind of stuff.

“They were trying to fly me out for Conan O’Brien and that’s just too much national television stuff, the camera getting in front of my face. I’m not into all that.”

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spoke on Friday as to how Buehrle throwing no-hitters and a perfect game is about as far removed from his gameplan as could be expected, with Buehrle not featuring a high-octane fastball and relying more on opposing hitters making contact and putting the ball in play. But getting Buehrle to take advantage of this fame through television shows and commercials…?

Well, that idea is even more foreign to the laid-back hurler with Midwestern sensibilities then the hitless efforts.

“With the no-hitter and success I’ve had, trying to get me out there and doing commercials or different things, they want me to get out there and I turn a lot of them down,” said Buehrle, who admitted with all of the talk and hype surrounding the Letterman appearance, it almost has to happen, at this point. “I like doing stuff, getting stuff and doing whatever, but I don’t like doing all the TV stuff that’s involved in doing it.”

Buehrle does appreciate the love and appreciation shown to him from within the baseball fraternity following Thursday’s perfect effort. A clubhouse video has circulated showing members of the Phillies going crazy when Wise robbed Gabe Kapler of the ninth-inning homer and then the group cheering just as loudly when Buehrle retired Jason Bartlett for the game’s final out.

After completing a round of interviews Friday in the White Sox dugout at Comerica Park, Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera stopped Buehrle to offer his personal congratulations.

Of course, the ultimate sign of respect came when numerous Tampa Bay players stayed in the visiting dugout, while the wild celebration took place on the field, to recognize Buehrle’s effort.

“To me, that was a very classy move,” Buehrle said. “I didn’t see it at the very beginning but a couple of guys said the whole team was out there for the majority of the celebration. Then, I got done with the interviews and there were six or eight guys out there. I gave them a thumbs up and I thought that was a class act by the guys out there.

“David Price wrote me a note and said, ‘Hey, it was an awesome game to watch and to be a part of history. It was an awesome game, congrats.’ Just all that kind of stuff, it makes you feel good that guys recognize it.

“Anytime history is going to be made, guys will tune in and watch it whenever they can. I think the same way,” Buehrle said. “It made me smile and feel good when they showed the (Phillies) going crazy when Wise made that catch. It almost kind of seemed like certain guys were rooting it on for it to happen.”

Garcia makes return to the mound

Freddy Garcia is scheduled to make his first Minor League rehab start Sunday evening for Class A Kannapolis, at home against Rome, marking the truly official opening of his second time around with the White Sox.

Garcia threw two bullpens for the White Sox last week and is expected to throw two or three innings for Kannapolis. After watching Garcia throw last week, pitching coach Don Cooper mentioned how it might take the right-hander just four or five starts to get ready to help the White Sox.