September 2009

Buehrle skipped; The Chairman speaks

Carlos Torres will take the mound Tuesday night in Cleveland in place of Mark Buehrle, with the White Sox left-hander possibly having made his last start of the 2009 campaign.

“They are pushing me back a couple of days,” said Buehrle, prior to Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Tigers.

“Right now, we’re not in the situation like we need to go there,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his left-handed ace. “Right now, we don’t know what we’re going to do about it, but I think it’s not worth it to take the aggravation.”

Buehrle will continue to do his regular work in between starts. Guillen hinted that if the last game of the 2009 regular season at Comerica Park means something for the Tigers or the Twins, then maybe Buehrle would make the start.

“I’m not 100 percent sure,” Guillen said.

Otherwise, Buehrle closes out another workmanlike year. He has a 12-10 record, 3.95 ERA and his requisite 32 starts and 207 1/3 innings pitched. The only disappointment for Buehrle would be his 1-7 record and 5.18 ERA over 12 starts since his July 23 perfect game, a stretch in which he has yielded 97 hits in 73 innings.

–Along with the presentations made to Buehrle in honor of the 18th perfect game thrown in Major League history, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave the team a bit of a pep talk early Friday directed toward 2010 preparedness.

“He wants guys to make sure they are going to come in wanting to win and get to the playoffs,” said White Sox rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham of Reinsdorf’s talk. “Hopefully we can do it. He’s the boss and a great person. I really enjoy being around him as much as possible. We all want to do better and fulfill what he wants us to do.”

According to Jake Peavy, Friday’s winning pitcher, Reinsdorf’s words gave him an offseason adrenaline boost past the excitement he already had built up to be ready for 2010.

“Just hearing Jerry talk to the team today got me fired up,” Peavy said. “Talking about competing this winter and being ready to come back and give everything we got to win a world championship next year.”

–Brandon Inge faced Peavy while the right-hander was pitching at a Cy Young-caliber level with the Padres in the National League. And while Peavy wasn’t quite at that level of performance on Friday, Detroit’s third baseman still came away impressed.

“He looked pretty good,” said Inge of Peavy. “His fastball is still jumping pretty good on you. Obviously, it’s not where it used to be; I faced him three or four years ago and he was touching 97, 98. He doesn’t have that kind of juice.

“Nonetheless, it comes out of his hand really well. It really didn’t matter because his slider made up for everything. It was filthy.”

White Sox weekend pitching alignment

Just for official clarification, from White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, Jake Peavy will start the series opener Friday against Detroit. Freddy Garcia will pitch Saturday night’s contest. Daniel Hudson is expected to start the 2009 home finale.

Jenks done for the 2009 season

Bobby Jenks is done for the year after suffering a pulled right calf muscle during pregame workouts at U. S. Cellular Field on Tuesday.

“I heard the pop, felt it and it’s not good,” said Jenks, after the White Sox dropped an 8-6 decision to the Twins. “It’s unfortunate with the timing with everything, the way our team has been going. All together, it’s one (bad) deal.”

The White Sox closer explained how he had a slight strain of the same area in Seattle last week. But the extra effort given on Tuesday pushed the injury too far.

“During stretch and warm-ups, I went a little overboard and did a little too much,” Jenks said. “I guess I wasn’t happy with the slight strain. I had to do it all the way.”

RAW is A.J.?

For those who missed WWE’s Monday Night Raw broadcast or weren’t there live at the AllState Arena, you missed a truly classic A.J. Pierzynski moment.

Pierzynski was sitting in the front row with teammates Jermaine Dye, Gordon Beckham and Chris Getz, when some segment began called ‘The Price is Raw’ hosted by the legendary Bob Barker. Wrestlers IRS and Santino Morrello already had been called down, as was some attractive looking blonde-haired woman named Jillian, who I’m guessing was associated with the WWE.

To be honest, I haven’t watched RAW in a while so I’m not familiar with all of the athletes. Someday, I’ll have to blog about my brief career as a wrestling play-by-play man, for a MUCH smaller wrestling organization, but that’s another tale for another time.

Barker needed another contestant to complete contestants’ row and who was called down but Pierzynski. The White Sox catcher and former wrestler/manager, and I think champion of some sort in TNA, the rival pro wrestling organization, completely sold the bit, reacting as if he just won the World Series yet again when his name was called and he got to meet Barker. Pierzynski even was wearing a Price is Right style name tag with A.J. on it.

Unfortunately, Pierzynski’s bid of $1,000 was not the winner but stood as good television nonetheless. Here’s an early prediction: Whenever Pierzynski decides to retire as a Major League Baseball catcher, he will be a star if he decides to go into the wrestling business. He could be the next Bobby Heenan as a manager or Jerry Lawler as an announcer.

Not sure if he wants the bumps and bruises as a wrestler, after enduing the bumps and bruises as a catcher.

Beckham could return on Wednesday

Gordon Beckham fully expects to be back in the White Sox starting lineup for Wednesday night’s series finale of a brief two-game home set with Oakland. Beckham basically has missed the last three games due to a strained right oblique, although it’s more of a tweak than a full-out strain like the one that sent Chris Getz to the disabled list.

The fact that Beckham exited Saturday’s contest in the bottom of the first inning and got treatment instead of playing on it probably saved the rookie third baseman from more extended trouble.

“I’m doing OK,” said Beckham after Monday’s 5-1 victory for the White Sox over Boston. “I think they want to keep me out one more day, but I probably could go (Tuesday). We’ll see. Hopefully Wednesday, maybe (Tuesday).”

With an off-day coming Thursday, ending a string of 20 games in 20 days during which the White Sox have posted a 7-11 record, and an important West Coast swing to Anaheim and Seattle starting Friday, Ozzie Guillen could error on the side of caution and keep Beckham out for the next two days. Guillen is being very careful with the young man who played 81 straight games and started 65 in a row, who currently leads all AL rookies with 23 doubles, 52 RBIs and 34 extra-base hits.

“I want him to finish strong,” said Guillen of Beckham. “Hopefully he can get what I want him to get, that award. He deserved and earned it. It’s our job to make sure we do the best for him to get it. We’ll talk to (White Sox athletic trainer) Herm (Schneider) about it. It’s a day game today and hopefully the long day he’ll get better.”

Perfect game superstitions and the big comeback

I’ll take full responsibility for Gavin Floyd losing his perfect game during Saturday’s 5-1 victory over the Red Sox. Or at least that’s what I was comically informed by my friend Jennifer on my Facebook page, after I apparently Tweeted too many times about Floyd’s consecutive batters retired.

There probably was a way I could have worked around saying perfect game, such as Floyd has retired 12 in a row or 18 in a row or no Boston baserunners have reached base, but I’m going to side with Mark Buehrle in this matter and state that I don’t buy into the perfect game/no-hitter superstition. If a pitcher is going to throw one, he’s going to throw one regardless of what I write.

I wasn’t even here for Buehrle’s perfect game, but I talked about it with a bunch of friends as it was happening and he still finished it off. Now, I certainly respect the people who follow the no-hitter superstitions. I myself have plenty of my own, in life, in general.

Rarely, if ever, will I do anything important when the clock reads 13 minutes in the time. And when I’m singing along with a song in the car, which is not exactly easy on anybody’s eardrums, I won’t sing the words death or die. It makes for interesting lyrical changes in a song such as American Pie.

So, who am I to criticize superstitious behavior? If I must be the fall guy for Nick Green’s hit after Floyd retired 17 straight, then so be it.

–As usual, Paul Konerko seems to have the proper perspective in regard to whether the White Sox have enough time to catch Detroit. They need to make up 6 games over the final 25, with six games in their final nine coming against the Tigers.

“I think there is,” Konerko said. “I mean, it’s not going to be easy and like I said, we might need some help at some point because with those six head-to-head games with Detroit, you can’t expect to be five or six back and you have to sweep them.

“They’re a good team, so you need to kind of knock that down. But I think the best thing you can do is not think about the grand scheme of the whole season. Just think about each day and each inning and try to play as hard as we can and win that day.

“If we start creeping up on them, that would be great,” Konerko said. “But we’ve put ourselves in a hole and Detroit is a good team. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got to keep working. We signed up for 162 here so we have to play hard every game and if it doesn’t work out, then we go home. But we have to play hard every day.”

–Jermaine Dye told me after Saturday’s game that he was ready to play on Saturday. So, the right fielder and his temporarily balky back will return to the lineup on Sunday.

–Here’s an interesting tidbit. Gordon Beckham is dining with a famous Chicago baseball legend on Saturday night. Who is it? The name will be revealed on Sunday.

–Same prediction as last year. The rejuvenated University of Michigan football team will top Notre Dame next Saturday in Ann Arbor. If the Wolverines win, I make a $200 contribution to White Sox Charities. If they lose, then the contribution is $100. White Sox Charities should benefit from Michigan’s excellence.

Hudson makes debut in Majors

With a 94 mph, four-seam fastball delivered outside the strike zone to Josh Reddick to open the seventh inning during Friday’s 12-2 victory over Boston at U.S. Cellular Field, Daniel Hudson officially began work for his fifth team this season.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Hudson said. “It’s kind of crazy, but I’m pretty happy.”

Hudson, 22, made his Major League debut for the White Sox by hurling two scoreless innings. The right-hander hit one batter, didn’t allow a hit and struck out Brian Anderson looking.

Before the big-league promotion, Hudson had pitched for Class A Kannapolis (1-2, 1.23 ERA), Class A Winston-Salem (4-3, 3.40), Double-A Birmingham (7-0, 1.60) and Triple-A Charlotte (2-0, 3.00). He posted a 14-5 mark with a 2.32 ERA over 26 combined starts.

Arriving with the White Sox for the fifth-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft stands as the ultimate accomplishment.

“It’s pretty crazy going out there for the first time,” Hudson said. “You have an adrenaline rush and you try to keep that in the back of your head and go out and throw strikes, especially being up so big.”

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen liked what he saw from Hudson, to the point that Hudson might be used again in relief or as a spot-starter if the White Sox fall a greater distance out of contention. Hudson remains ready for any role, although the bullpen does take a bit of an adjustment.

“I’ve never relieved before but I think I can do it pretty well,” Hudson said. “You just have to make sure you are loose before you go in the game.

–For those who still care, general manager Ken Williams does not get regular updates on Bartolo Colon and doesn’t really know his exact whereabouts. It’s not exactly a thrilling situation for Williams.

“Does it bother me? A little bit. A little bit,” said Williams in sardonic tones, indicating it bothers him more than just a little.

Colon also took off on the Red Sox in 2008 when he was moved to the bullpen, but Williams seemed surprised by his 2009 disappearing act after getting put on the disabled list on July 25 with right elbow inflammation.

“Yes, I’m surprised by it,” Williams said. “But what are you going to do?”

–Guillen credited everyone from his family to his coaches to his players to his bosses after picking up career win No. 500. Then, he made this bold statement.

“Hopefully, I sit one day here and talk about my 2,000th,” Guillen said.

He then paused and broke into laughter.

“I ain’t gonna manage that long,” said a smiling Guillen. “I don’t know about 600.”

–Jermaine Dye has missed the last two days with a sore back. Mark Kotsay filled in nicely with three hits, three RBIs and an outfield assist.

–Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson, the entertaining White Sox television play-by-play voice, turned 68 on Friday, getting a birthday visit from White Sox mascot Southpaw during the game. Guillen jokingly guessed 96 as Hawk’s age, before wishing him a heartfelt happy birthday.

Ken Williams, unplugged

Here’s some extra Ken Williams to fill your evening, making up for lost time, especially since the Chicago media didn’t hear from him for a few days.

–On still being in contention for the 2009 American League Central title, despite sitting seven games behind Detroit and one game behind Minnesota.

“We’ve got unfinished business here, and I’m hoping like hell we can get to within four, 3 games going into the games against Detroit because Detroit’s got to play us six times, and if I’m not mistaken, they’ve got to play Minnesota seven times. So there’s a lot that can happen here this month of September, and no, there’s no quit or giving up.

“You know me. I can get awfully stubborn. What I do know is we have the talent. We have the talent to run off a streak. We have not done that all year seemingly, but we certainly have the talent to do that.

“So, what’s so implausible about us going 8-2 over our 10 next games and one of the other clubs or both of the other clubs going 5-5? What does that do for the perception of what we’re going to go down to when we face them six times at the end of the season, and they’ve got to beat up against Minnesota? We’re still in it to win it.

–On being excited to see in action prospects such as Dan Hudson, who worked two scoreless innings on Friday.

“No. Because the more they play, the more they’re in there, that means the more we have fallen back. So, I don’t care if they get an at-bat or throw a pitch.

“Well, you know when I’d like to see them play? When we’re way ahead. I would love giving young guys an opportunity to get their Major League shoes on for the first time and get that adrenaline out because then when you need them for the next year, they’ve got that experience to draw from.

“They’ve got an understanding of just how fast the Major League game is. I keep trying to tell people, we try to develop people in the Minor Leagues to be prepared for this level, but you can’t. Until you step out on the field and you realize, ‘Oh my God. Those two-hoppers that I used to get to very quickly defensively are now through the infield and into the outfield,’ or every pitch is a little bit sharper or a little bit quicker. It’s a different game. So anytime you can do that, great. But maybe when we’re way up we’ll give them an opportunity to play, but not now.”

–On the coaching staff taking the brunt of the blame, if the players are in place to win the division.

“I support Ozzie and the coaching staff, and they know it. When you get to a position like this, you can point fingers very easily. You can point them at the players, you can point them at the coaching staff or an individual coach or the general manager who puts everything together.

“However, as soon as you start to do that, the worse you become. And I’m not going to let anyone fall into that trap. If I ever get to the point where I have lost faith and lost confidence in anybody out here, you’ll know it pretty quickly.”

–Finally, Williams on the memo he sent out Monday stating selected veterans were available and his displeasure on that news being made public.

“Sure I got calls. And it was an e-mail. An e-mail that should be, all these things, all the waiver claims that get out, all the contact from club to club that gets out. It’s a serious confidence breach and players don’t understand, fans and you guys to a large degree, don’t understand that these things go on all year long because you have to gauge the value of your players, because you can be too close to the situation, too close emotionally and too close physically to the situation.”

Dan Hudson on the way

Dan Hudson is on his way to the Major Leagues.

At least, that’s what the young right-hander is saying.

According to a Tuesday report in the Newport News Daily Press, Hudson said that he was told by the coaches at Triple-A Charlotte that he soon will be joining the White Sox. The 22-year-old right-hander, selected in the fifth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has cruised through the White Sox Minor League system this year. He posted a 14-5 record and 2.32 ERA over 26 starts between stints with Class A Kannapolis, Class A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte. He fanned 166 over 147 1/3 innings.

During stops for the Barons and Knights, the highest levels of Minor League competition, Hudson has a perfect 9-0 record with a 2.02 ERA.

Hudson threw just three innings at Norfolk on Tuesday, striking out five, before telling the publication about the big conversation he had with pitching coach Richard Dotson.

“When they told me, I did a double-take. They had to tell me twice before I believed them,” said Hudson of reportedly getting called up after rosters expanded on Sept. 1. “It’s an awesome feeling. Just an amazing feeling.”

White sox pitching coach Don Cooper was asked Wednesday about Hudson’s arrival, but he deferred the decision to general manager Ken Williams as his call. Having pitched three innings Tuesday, Hudson won’t pitch Thursday against the Cubst. But he could get a chance when the fifth starter comes around next, depending on Jake Peavy’s recovery and the White Sox playoff standing.

Thome, Contreras = Pure Class

With the late-arriving news of Jim Thome’s trade to the Dodgers on Monday night, I was reminded of a moment involving the White Sox designated hitter from about two years ago. It’s a story I’ve told over and over again because it really defines the nature of one of the game’s most prodigious sluggers. And his ability on the field was surpassed by the great individual he was off the field.

It was a random three-game series at U.S. Cellular against some team I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing near the back of the clubhouse, where the media often gathers just to the left of where Thome’s locker was located, and having him walking by and stopping to say hi and chat with a handful of media members before going off for batting practice.

Two days later, on the morning before a day game, I was standing in the same spot, when Thome one again walked back toward his locker. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder as sort of a pat on the back and said:

“It’s good to see you.”

Thome was just that sort of guy. He was such a good person, so upbeat and good-natured, that you often wondered if he really was that good of a person, that upbeat and that good-natured. Once you met Thome for about two minutes, the answer was a resounding ‘Yes.’

I had a chance to get to know Thome a little bit beyond baseball. I went to a Target in Chicago last offseason, when Jim, and his wife Andrea, every bit as nice and altruistic as her husband, were buying winter coats for kids through their charitable involvement with Children Home + Aid of Illinois, a program they got into in conjunction with Paul and Jennifer Konerko. I remember talking with Thome about the Hot Stove rumors, and he was as interested in the offseason maneuvers as if he was covering a team.

There also were a couple of opportunities for me to attend the Joyce Thome Benefit dinner in honor of Jim’s late mother, benefitting Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. It was amazing to watch Thome treat everyone in attendance, and I mean everyone, like family members. It’s understandable why he is the favorite son of Peoria.

Actually, the move by the White Sox to send Thome to Los Angeles really is doing a favor for one of the game’s true good guys. The only spot left open on his Hall of Fame resume is winning a World Series title, and as a pinch-hitter or possibly spot starter at first base, he should be a valuable asset to the Dodgers. He also has been reunited with one-time Cleveland teammate Manny Ramirez, and there would be nothing more fitting than a championship and 600 home runs to close out Thome’s career.

In order to finish this trade, Thome had to waive his no-trade clause. He probably understood that the White Sox weren’t going to win a title in 2009 and that he probably wasn’t part of their plans for 2010 and beyond. With Tyler Flowers coming up Tuesday, don’t be surprised if the rookie catcher of the future gets his fair share of chances to serve as designated hitter over the final 30 games.

As for pitcher Jose Contreras, he was every bit as solid of a person as Thome. The quick comeback he made from a ruptured left Achilles suffered last August was nothing short of miraculous, and while he struggled mightily of late, people shouldn’t forget what he meant to the organization. There is no World Series title without Contreras.

If the White Sox don’t pick up the pace considerably in the next month, more good guys and one-time key contributors will be playing at new addresses next season.

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