Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

April 2012 Archives

Konerko named AL Player of the Week

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White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who hit the 400th home run of his career and two other long balls last week, was named American League Player of the Week on Monday.

Konerko hit three homers and three doubles and batted .435 in six games. It marked the fifth Konerko has won the award in his career.

Philip Humber was named AL Player of the Week last week after pitching the 21st perfect game in major-league history on April 21 at Seattle. It's the first time since the first two weeks of 2011 that White Sox won the award in consecutive weeks. Carlos Quentin and Konerko pulled it off last April.

"Everybody likes the round numbers, but again when it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I'm done playing and look back, that's when it might hit home more,'' Konerko said last week of his 400th home run. "But when you are in the middle of the grind and grinding every day and working, you tend not to think about that stuff and you probably shouldn't.

"You want to go on to the next thing. If I'm doing my job right, that's what I am doing. It's nice. Every time I've gotten to 100 or whatever it is, you never think you are going to get to the next one or you think it seems far away. It's cool, but we'll tuck it away now and we'll look at it probably when I'm done playing. We can re open it up and talk about it more then.''

Konerko hits 400th home run

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OAKLAND -- Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run Wednesday, and he picked a dramatic time to achieve the feat.

Leading off the ninth inning against Oakland A's closer Grant Balfour, Konerko hit the first pitch over the 367-foot sign in left field to put the White Sox in a 2-2 tie.

It was Konerko's fourth home run of the season.

Chris Sale pitched eight strong innings for the Sox, giving way to Addison Reed in the bottom of the ninth.

Konerko was tied with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline on the all-time list at 399. He has hit 393 homers in a Sox uniform.

Konerko's milestone home runs: No. 1, June 6, 1998 at Seattle; No. 100, June 22, 2002 at Atlanta; Aug. 13, 2005 at Boston; No. 300, April 13, 2009 at Detroit.

Ventura lets White Sox know who's boss

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OAKLAND -Robin Ventura may be a rookie manager, but he's no pushover when it comes to established veteran players.

Jake Peavy walked off the mound, nostrils flaring, when Ventura pulled him out of the home opener against the Detroit Tigers. And Alex Rios, carrying an 11-game hitting streak and batting third on Tuesday night, was caught off guard when Ventura called him back to the dugout in the ninth inning.

"It is delicate,'' said Ventura, who sent Adam Dunn (who struck out) to pinch hit against right-handed closer Grant Balfour. "I don't necessarily like to do that, but in that spot, you have Paulie [Konerko] coming up next. You don't know how many chances you have for a guy who has a chance to hit one out. More of Dunner's thing.''

Rios said after the game he was OK with the move and after having a night to sleep on it, he didn't change his view too much.

"It's not a big deal but I've been I've been swinging the bat good,'' Rios said Wednesday. "So it didn't cross my mind that I was going to be pinch hit for, but if it's the best for the team to win that game, let's go for it. It's all about winning games.''

Rios was batting .340 with one homer, three doubles and seven RBI going into the Sox series finale against the A's on Wednesday afternoon.

"My power numbers are not good right now,'' he said.

Ventura said lifting Rios was "one of those rare things.''

"Nobody likes being pinch-hit for, or having a guy step in for him,'' Ventura said. "But in certain situations, it happens.''

Some pop at the top: De Aza getting it done for White Sox

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Alejandro De Aza could have buried his head in his hands and cried, 'why me?'

Instead, he worked his way back and said, "why not me?''

Crushed by two broken ankles (one a stress fracture) that impeded his career path in 2007 and '08, De Aza has a new appreciation for good health and is making the most of his latest opportunity to be an everyday player. Staying angry about his bad luck wasn't going to help.

"No, things happen,'' he said. "I was angry at the beginning but after a while I said, 'I'm going to work my way back and get healthy.' ''

De Aza has been more than adequate as the White Sox every day center fielder and leadoff man with a .333 on-base percentage, but he's also giving them something they didn't have in recent years with Juan Pierre - extra-base power.

The 28 year-old De Aza, who took a .283 batting average and .353 on-base percentage into the Sox game against the Oakland A's Tuesday, has three homers, two triples and two doubles, good for a .550 slugging percentage. He has scored 14 runs to rank among the leaders in the American League. Power at the top of the order is always a bonus.

"He has it,'' manager Robin Ventura said, "and the ones he's hit were important. It's not like he's hitting them when they don't matter.''

De Aza led off the Sox' 4-2 win at Cleveland at April 9 with a homer against Josh Tomlin, he hit a two-run shot in the sixth against Dan Wheeler two days later to give the Sox a three-run lead in a 10-6 win, and he homered against Tommy Hunter to give the Sox a 4-1 lead in their only win over the four-game series against the Orioles last week.

"To start the game he's your regular leadoff hitter where he works the counts and is doing things but once it turns over he's just another hitter,'' Ventura said. "It's not like he's a gimmick at the top. He's a quality hitter.''

The left-handed hitting De Aza has done a little of this and a little of that, the sum of which has added up to a lot. He bunted for a single in the first game of the three-game series sweep of the Mariners on Friday and stole his second base in three attempts. He was 2-for-5 with an RBI single in the top of the ninth that gave Philip Humber a four-run cushion to finish off his perfect game on Saturday. Humber and Ventura both cited that fourth run as a key to letting Humber not have to worry about the win-loss result and focusing on the feat.

The jury is still out on whether De Aza can sustain the production over the long haul. For the first time in his career, he is an every day player.

"Everyone wants the opportunity to play every day,'' De Aza said. "I have it now, so it's something to enjoy.''

De Aza thought he would have that opportunity when he won the Opening Day center fielder's job with the Florida Marlins in 2007.

Before the injuries, he projected as a solid defensive center fielder with plus speed and compact, line-drive swing that produced on-base ability and occasional power.

He lost a shade of his speed but Sox scouts Joe Butler and Bill Young liked his defense and bat, and knowing they would have time to develop him because De Aza had options left, the Sox felt he was worth a waiver claim.

It looks like they were right. De Aza batted .329 after the Sox called him up from AAA Charlotte in late July last season. He hit .343 after Aug. 3, the sixth-highest average in the AL during that stretch.


"Thoughts in Philip Humber's Mind During His Perfect Game"

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From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska...

THE "LATE SHOW" TOP TEN

"Thoughts That Went Through Philip Humber's Mind During His Perfect Game"

[As presented by Chicago White Sox star Philip Humber, who pitched a perfect game for the team on Saturday, on the Monday, April 23 broadcast of the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, seen weeknights (11:35 PM 12:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.]

10. "Don't jinx it by thinking about it, don't jinx it by thinking about it - I'm thinking about it."

9. "Thank goodness for my catcher, AJ Pierzanky...Piernoftski...Pierzonski...whatever."

8. "Go sit in the truck!"

7. "Thank goodness I drafted myself for my fantasy team."

6. "The only thing better than pitching a perfect game is making a perfect meatloaf every time with my new perfect meatloaf pan."

5. "Can Broadway's 'End of the Rainbow' really be like seeing Judy Garland in person?"

4. "Grab some pine, ducklips!"

3. "I see the Red Sox are up 9-0 on the Yanks - that's an easy win."

2. "I wish I could get me one of those dancing horses."
(videotape rolls of an equestrian rider on a prancing horse)

1. "Humber? How about Humbest!"

Peavy shuts out A's

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OAKLAND - Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios question marks? At the rate they're going, they won't be much longer.
Paul Konerko? Never.
Peavy, Dunn and Rios, three-fourths of the White Sox' subpar group of 2011 that's being counted on to bounce back and have the 2012 team playing meaningful games in September, kept their fast-track starts going in the Sox' 4-0 victory over the Oakland A's on Monday night.
The Sox (10-6) have won four in a row on their West Coast trip and five of their last six overall.
Konerko, sore foot and all, continues to hit like he's in the prime of his career. Against former Sox right-hander Bartolo Colon, Dunn and Konerko opened the fourth inning with back-to-back home runs to break a scoreless tie.
Dunn's homer, his fourth, was pulled down the right-field line. Konerko's, his third this season and 399th of his career, was launched to right-center field.
Dunn has three homers and 11 RBI in his last six games. He played first base for the second straight game while Konerko, nursing a sore right foot from a ball he fouled off in Seattle on Friday, was the designated hitter.
Dunn has 369 career home runs, tying him with Ralph Kiner for 71st on the all-time list. Konerko is tied for 48th with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga.
Rios, who batted .227 last season, had three hits for the second straight game to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He's 17-for-40 (.425) in that stretch.
But the biggest story of the night - and perhaps the young season -- is Peavy, whose three perfect innings to open the game were more notable than usual because it's been that kind of stretch for the Sox lately -- two days after Philip Humber pitched a perfect game in Seattle.
The A's Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp dashed Peavy's Late Night with David Letterman dreams by opening the fourth with a single and walk, but Peavy got Josh Reddick to rap into a double play and Yoenis Cespedes on a foul pop-up to catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
The only hit Peavy gave up after that was Cespedes' double in the seventh.
Peavy made his fourth quality start in as many outings and was very good - or better -- for his third in a row. This one followed two runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Tigers and one run in seven innings against the Orioles. He was going for his first complete game since May 18 of last year against Cleveland.
Even struggling Sox Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham contributed. Morel (2-for-4 with a double) reached base three times and scored the third run on Beckham's single over a pulled in infield in the ninth. Beckham had hit into two double plays before that

Call from Obama, TV time with Dave all part of Humber's day

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OAKLAND, Calif. - Philip Humber's head was still spinning two days after throwing a perfect game in Seattle on Saturday. On Monday, he taped a Top Ten List segment with David Letterman and received a call from President Obama.

"It definitely is an honor to speak to him,'' Humber said of his call from the president. "He just wanted to congratulate me. He even asked about [wife] Kristan and the baby [due in two weeks] and asked how that was going. He shared some of his experience of being a new father and stuff.''

When Humber hadn't heard from Obama, a Sox fan, on Sunday, he joked that it could be because he's a registered Republican.

"He's a very nice man and he represents our country in a good way,'' Humber said. "He's a great communicator and I appreciate him talking to me.''

After going through the list with Letterman, the TV host got back to Humber on the phone. Texts and Tweets continued to stream in Monday, including one from Tim Tebow.

"I'm a fan of his,'' said Humber , who has "Colossians 3:23" inscribed on his glove (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.) "Not just for what he has done on the field but what kind of person he is and how he carries himself. I hope I can be a little bit of that as far as being an athlete and someone who does the right thing and says the right things.''

Of the Letterman bit, Humber said, "I think it went good. I can't wait to see it and hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too bad. It sounded like I got some laughs. It seemed like he enjoyed himself so hopefully it goes over good.''

Humber doesn't watch much Letterman or Jay Leno, he said.

"But he's funny. He's been on for a long time and definitely an honor to be asked to be on that show. It's probably is something I'll never get to do again. So I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could.''

Humber said he was "tired" from getting up early to do interviews and the taping while keeping up with his work. He threw his bullpen session at the Oakland Colesium, working out of the stretch for the first time in a while.

"It's fine,'' he said. "I'm just trying to be myself and I know it's something that's like your 15 minutes of fame or whatever. I really try as much as I can to represent what I believe in and represent the White Sox well. I just want to be appreciative of it. It's throwing a perfect game, like I was telling people, it's not something you do but it's something that happens to you. Enjoy the moment and try to remember all of it but at the same time, our guys have done a good job of getting most of it out of the way.''

His next start is Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field against the Red Sox. The White Sox open a homestand that night after finishing their six-game trip through Seattle and Oakland.Tickets for Thursday's game are being specially priced as a tribute to Humber, with availability at $9 or $27 for certain seats.

"Hopefully we get some more fans coming out,'' Humber said. "We've been playing good baseball and the last homestand, I know it was cold out, but it seemed like there wasn't as many people there after the first couple of games. Hopefully we get the fans out there and get them behind us. It makes you feel good when you come home after a road trip to have your fans out there cheering for you.''

White Sox lower prices for Humber's next start

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White Sox Media Relations

In recognition of Philip Humber's perfect game this past weekend, the Chicago White Sox are offering fans the opportunity to purchase specially-priced tickets for the team's first game back at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday, April 26 vs. the Boston Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. Humber is scheduled to pitch vs. Boston that evening.

Fans can purchase tickets for $9 (number of perfect innings) or $27 (number of batters retired) for the game on Thursday - with all Upper Reserved tickets priced at $9 and all Lower Box, Lower Reserved and Bleacher tickets at $27, based on availability.

The White Sox also will provide all fans in attendance on Thursday night with a commemorative Philip Humber perfect game poster, featuring photos of Humber during the game and after the final out, and an image of the official team scorecard. Select Philip Humber merchandise is available at The Chicago Sports Depot.

The specially-priced tickets for Thursday's game vs. Boston are available now at whitesox.com, the U.S. Cellular Field ticket office and at all Ticketmaster locations.

Winter ball got Humber's mind right for baseball

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I was going through some things in my Philip Humber vault, and found a story I wrote last May 6, when Humber was carving a niche in the White Sox rotation. Humber, who pitched the 21st perfect game in baseball history on Satrday, talked to me then about how his entire approach to baseball changed after he played winter ball with a bunch of castoffs and wannabes who played simply for the love of the game.

By Daryl Van Schouwen


You wonder where an 11-21 team's collective head is right now. In a clubhouse full of slumping hitters and defenders and tinkering relief pitchers, fifth starter Phil Humber is one White Sox who has it figured out.

And it didn't take the team psychologist, or manager Ozzie Guillen's tongue-in-cheek solution ("We used to solve the mental problem with vodka and a lot of Budweiser'') to put Humber in a better place mentally. He did it on his own.

"I don't know how you quantify it but for me baseball is 90 percent mental,'' said Humber, who faces the huge task of getting the Sox untracked tonight against the Mariners and Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. "I've always been prepared physically but not until recently have I prepared my mind for what I need to do to prepare myself for the right way of thinking. I'm glad it's happened now. I wish it would have happened early, but I can really enjoy what I'm doing now and appreciate where I'm at.''

The third overall pick by the Mets in the 2004 draft, Humber hasn't lived up to that but his that's-more-like-it start to 2011 (2-3, 3.06 ERA) looks like a find for a team that has blindsided its fan base with its worst start since 1978.

"When I was in New York I felt like I had to live up to be worthy of being drafted third overall,'' Humber said. "Whether it was real or imagined, I felt like people always expected more. Was I throwing hard enough? Or doing this or that? Same thing in Minnesota when I got traded for [Johan] Santana. I felt like everybody was looking for some payoff for that trade. And it took my focus away from what I could control.''

Everything changed for Humber after his 2009 season split with the Twins (eight earned runs in nine innings) and AAA Rochester (7-9, 5.34 ERA). A minor-league free agent whom Minnesota had given up on -- Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said he looked like his mind was going 100 miles per hour as the game was running away from him -- Humber packed bags for Puerto Rico to play winter ball. He did it solely for grins and to get his head straight.

"I went to have fun playing baseball and not worry about what anybody else was thinking,'' he said. "It really helped me."

Humber was reunited with Ricky Bones, his pitching coach in Class A, and he played with a mix of prospects and older players who were grateful for the opportunity to play.

"It made an immediate impact on me,'' Humber said. "I just said, 'I'm thankful for today and I'm going to do the best I can with it.' ''

Humber took that approach to spring training after being signed by Kansas City last January. He pitched most of the season at AAA Omaha (4.47) and was 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in eight games with the Royals. The Sox claimed him on waivers in January, and he brought his new mindset to spring training where he won a spot in the rotation.

"This is what I have today, this is the opportunity, I'll do my best and the results will be what they are,'' Humber said. "At the end of the day, it's not going to change my life as a person. I'm still the same person. That's what changed me.

"I had to figure out why I was playing. Because I'm a first-round pick and had a five-year contract? Am I playing for the money? For what people think of me?

"I sat down and made a list of the reasons why, and what it boiled down to is because I want to. If I don't want to play, I don't have to. Nobody is forcing me.''

The initial success this season won't change Humber's approach. In years past, he said he'd be looking over his shoulder now that Jake Peavy is possibly coming back to the rotation, putting pressure on himself to pitch well or else. No more.

Humber's stuff -- including a good slider that's the centerpiece of his arsenal -- is basically the same as before. The differences lie between his ears, and in his pulse rate.

"When you're relaxed and focused on what you need to do, you command the ball better for sure -- no tension," Humber said. "I've got to where I can make a pitch in pressure situations because I'm not worried about the result. Once I let it go I'm done with it. And I've got better command. It's more mental than anything.''

Sale strikes out 11 Mariners in White Sox victory

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SEATTLE -- Chris Sale improved to 2-1 with a mixed performance that was good enough.

Sale allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings but had his strikeout pitch working. The lefty, in his first season as a starter, fanned 11 Seattle Mariners in a 7-3 victory.

"I was sporadic with my control at times but I have to give it to [catcher] A.J [Pierzynski],'' Sale said. "He really got me through that game. I threw one changeup for a strike. He came in the dugout and said, 'hey someone frame this ball for him.' That kind of stuff makes me smile and relaxes me a little.''

The Sox tied a season high with 15 strikeouts. Jesse Crain fanned two and Hector Santiago and Matt Thornton had one each.

Sale (3.50 ERA) gave up seven hits and walked three and pitched out of trouble.

"I've got a lot of positive reinforcement around here from people who know what they're doing,'' he said of making the transition to starting. "I just lean on them for knowledge and support. It makes it easier when guys are telling you the right things and pushing you in the right direction.''


Manto's 'creativity' gets Dunn untracked

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SEATTLE -- Adam Dunn is searching to find the groove he was in during spring training and the first few games of the regular season. A selective hitter who draws lots of walks, Dunn is caught somewhere between being too picky and and swinging at pitches out of the zone.

"I feel a lot better than I did the last few games,'' Dunn said. "I'm still swinging at a lot of pitches that I shouldn't. We need to fix that.''

Dunn had it fixed on Friday night, hitting two home runs and a double in the White Sox' 7-3 victory against the Seattle Mariners. With five RBI, he hiked his season total to 11. He has three homers and is batting .265.

"I've been feeling good. I had a stretch of four five games I wasn't worried about. Everybody goes through them,'' he said.

Hitting coach Jeff Manto came up with a drill that helped Dunn keep his balance at the plate, placing a medicine ball between his feet in the batting cage. Dunn scratched his head at the suggestion at first, but it worked.

"Jeff is always thinking about new drills,'' Dunn said. "He came up with another drill I thought was kind of crazy. We started doing it and I felt like I was getting my balance back. He's still on the ball.''

Dunn has been lunging forward on his front foot, but the drill helped him stay back.

"I thought that was pretty creative,'' he said.


Dunn is probably looking forward to Sunday's game against Mariners right-hander Kevin Millwood. He is 8-for-19 with six homers against him.

Here's how the Sox lined up against Mariners right-hander Hector Noesi: DeAza CF, Morel 3B, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Pierzynski C, Rios RF, Ramirez SS, Viciedo LF, Beckham 2B. Sale P.

White Sox Lillibridge waiting patiently for some PT

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White Sox manager Robin Ventura said utility man Brent Lillibridge might start in the series finale against the Orioles on Thursday afternoon. That would be music to the ears of Lillibridge,who had five at-bats going into Wednesday's game, the least of anyone on the Sox.

Lillibridge is waiting patiently and hasn't gone to Ventura to talk about playing time.

"The wife wants me to because she wants to see me play,'' he said. "But I know there's a plan, so I have to be ready. Work hard, no complaining, be a great teammate and go from there. I want to be in there. I know I'm going to get my opportunities.''

Lillibridge sees Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham struggling and knows he'd be one to step in but he understands why Ventura is sticking with them.

"I totally respect and understand it,'' Lillibridge said. "If they do well, we all do well and it's the only way we're going to get better and have a chance to win long term and not be on that roller coaster.''

Lillibridge, who started one game in left field, has been used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for Dayan Viciedo in left field. Kosuke Fukudome started in left on Wednesday.

White Sox' Ramirez: Ozzie apology a big first step

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CLEVELAND - White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez diplomatically stopped short of taking former manager Ozzie Guillen to task for his inflammatory remarks about Fidel Castro, saying he hopes a forthcoming apology is accepted by those whom Guillen offended.

"I haven't specifically heard what Ozzie said,'' Ramirez said through a translator before the Sox opened a three-game series against the Indians in Cleveland. "But I would just say whatever his thoughts, whatever his comments, those are Ozzie's comments. That's more on him.''

Guillen last week told Time magazine that he "loves" and respects Castro, a brutal Cuban dictator. Ramirez left Cuba for the Dominican Republic in 2007. Asked if he found it offensive that anyone in baseball would support Castro, Ramirez said, "Everybody is free to have an opinion. It's one of those that there are some people who like Castro and some people who don't. In Miami, it's definitely of a different thought frame. I think that his opinion is not the same opinion I have.''

Ramirez said he hopes Guillen's apology is accepted.

"Apologizing is definitely a big first step,'' Ramirez said. "Everyone has an opinion but I also feel that people should be forgiven. If he's going to apologize, hopefully it will be accepted.''

Ventura wants De Aza to keep running

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alejandro De Aza was thrown out stealing five times while stealing successfully three times during spring training. Then he got thrown out by Rangers catcher Mike Napoli on Opening Day. But Ventura said before the game he wants his leadoff man to keep running.

"I want him to be aggressive,'' Ventura said. "I want him to go in and feel there are no reins on him. I want him to be able to go out there and feel confident about trying to get a big jump.''

De Aza stole second in the first and scored on Paul Konerko's single to left.

"He's going to get thrown out,'' Ventura said. "We'll have guys that probably will get thrown out, but it won't stop us from running."

De Aza looked bad in the third inning getting picked off by lefthander Derek Holland.

White Sox GM Williams on Gregg Williams, bounty program

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The White Sox released a statement from general manager Ken Williams regarding his son, Kyle, and the NFL bounty program:

"As you have seen, Kyle Williams is a man's man and has shown himself more than capable of answering on his own behalf. He has definite feelings on the subject but has chosen to remain committed to providing all his answers to any questions on the field next season. Knowing this young man's intestinal fortitude, I doubt anyone will get him to waver from his position.

To answer the questions directed specifically to me, as a father first and foremost, I am glad to report Kyle's concussion tests have been extremely positive and we are grateful he is ready and anxious to get back to competition. Personally, suspension or not, it's probably best I'm never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the line of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport; and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore a litigious matter.

Putting aside my fatherly feelings and putting on my sports executive hat, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the league in general, the 49ers organization and Trent Balke and Jim Harbough in particular. I have no doubt they are monitoring the situation very closely and will take the appropriate action should they deem it necessary in this matter.

As a result of this and the fact that the singular focus for every member of the White Sox organization is on a distraction-free championship season, I won't be speaking publicly on the subject any further."

White Sox' Santiago gets the ball in ninth

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HOUSTON - It sure looked like an audition for Hector Santiago, and it sort of felt like one, too.

While manager Robin Ventura holds off on naming his closer until possibly Opening Day - we might not know until the first save situation, he said - Santiago was the guy who pitched the ninth in the White Sox' 5-1 exhibition victory against the Astros on Tuesday night.

Santiago, who had been scored on in one appearance this spring, was far from sharp, giving up an infield single, a walk and a hard single to load the bases with one out before Travis Buck lined one to Santiago's glove side.

Santiago caught it, looked around and threw to first to double off Brian Bogusevic to preserve the Sox win. With a four-run lead, it was not a save situation.

"Saw it all the way in,'' a relieved Santiago said, smiling.

Santiago, a rookie lefthander with five innings of major league experience, was not told he was pitching the ninth.

"Nothing,'' he said. "I was just like, 'go out there and attack the zone, let them hit it and hopefully get them 1-2-3. "I had no idea, I guess it's just how it played out.''

Nate Jones (fifth inning), Addison Reed (sixth) Jesse Crain (seventh), Matt Thornton (eighth) all pitched scoreless innings before Santiago.

Trotting in from the left-field bullpen, it had to cross Santiago's mind that he might be manager Robin Ventura's top pick to finish games.

"Maybe a little bit, the way it plays out, maybe into the closer role but honestly I have no idea,'' the Newark, N.J., native said. "They called down and whenever they call my name I'm ready to go.

"Yeah, as I was running in I thought of that a little more, when I warmed up I didn't think about it. When I was running in I had an idea, ninth inning and it was a lot louder than spring. I just tried to tunnel vision it, block everything out and go after guys.''

Asked before the game what his No. 1 criteria for a closer will be, Ventura said the ability to throw strikes.

Ventura said "there's a mentality" to the job and "guys who are going to get behind and walk guys have more trouble than guys who can pound the zone.''



Mixed results for White Sox' Floyd in spring finale

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With mixed results, right-hander Gavin Floyd threw about 80 pitches Monday in his final tuneup for the regular season.

Floyd allowed four runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in the White Sox' final Cactus League game. Floyd struck out four and walked two. Three runs came in the second inning, when he gave up Brooks Conrad's

"I feel real good, I feel strong,'' Floyd said. "The second inning I got in the stretch and started rushing a little bit. I got behind a lot of hitters, but bounced back. Even the hits they got, they were good pitches and I got weak contact for the most part.''

A 17-game winner with the Sox in 2008, Floyd said early in camp that his goal is to win 20 games. The No. 3 starter in the rotation, he'll face the Texas Rangers in the third game of the season on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas.

"I worked on my changeup, a cutter, and worked on using both sides of plate with all my pitches,'' he said of spring training. "I tried to refine things, become better as a pitcher. I feel good. Today, I lost some curveball and fastball location, but I got it figured out, got it back.''

White Sox unveil new food items at U.S. Cellular

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White Sox Media Relations

Beginning with the home opener on Friday, April 13, the Chicago White Sox will offer fans a variety of new and unique food items throughout the 2012 season at U.S. Cellular Field, in addition to signature favorites.

"The White Sox have always taken great pride in the not only the quality, but the variety of food we serve at U.S. Cellular Field," said Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing. "Levy Restaurants and Sportservice have created another roster of delicious new items that our fans are sure to enjoy in 2012."

Sportservice will debut their new menu items on the ballpark's 100-level and 500-level. Fans can look forward to enjoying the following new items:

· Balkan Dog - Cevapcici, a casing-less combination of pork, beef and lamb, served with diced white onions and a zesty red pepper and eggplant sauce on pita bread. It is a well-loved favorite in Eastern Europe. Located at the Chicago Cheese Steak cart on the 500-level near section 536.

· Pastrami Cheese Steak - Chicago spin on a Philadelphia favorite. A sandwich with sliced pastrami, melted cheese, sliced onions and sliced green peppers, served on a hoagie bun.

· Bases Loaded Baked Potato - Baked potato made your way. Fans choose either chicken carnita, beef barbacoa or bacon. Then load up on shredded cheddar cheese, broccoli, sour cream, chives, butter and salsa.

· Burger Barn - Offering "DaBurger Double Play" and the "Juicy Lucy." DaBurger is a pork patty topped with cheddar, bacon, BBQ sauce and caramelized onions or with produce and your choice of condiments. The Juicy Lucy is stuffed with bacon and cheddar or jalapeno and cream cheese.

· Owl's Nest - Chicken wings tossed in Hooters' wing sauce. Your choice of medium, hot and honey Thai served with celery and choice of blue cheese or ranch dressing.

· Chicken Sandwich - All natural, free-range chicken breast grilled and served as a sandwich. Esteemed vendor Coleman Natural Foods provides chicken that has never been treated with hormones, antibiotics or preservatives.

· Chicken Tenders - Coleman Natural Foods also provides all natural chicken tenders for fans' sophisticated palettes.

· Vienna Hot Dogs with Pastrami Bacon - All-beef hot dog with pastrami bacon add-on topping available at all hot dog portables.

· Cookies and Cream Malt Cup - Seat vendors and sweet stands now offer this special summer treat.

· Irish Nacho Helmet - French fries topped with cheese, sour cream, bacon and chives. Served in a kelly green souvenir helmet. Located in the Triple Play Café (Section 110) and the Fan Deck (Section 100).

· Bases Loaded Sundae - A funnel cake topped with three scoops of soft serve ice cream, loaded with chocolate, nuts and other toppings. Served in our famous Batterman souvenir helmet.

Fans sitting in the Club Level of U.S. Cellular Field can experience Levy Restaurant's newest menu items:

· Meatball Mania - New spin on an old fan favorite. A skewer of six meatballs available in three delicious flavors: traditional beef meatball with marinara, chicken meatball with green chile verde, or thai pork meatball with ginger-soy barbecue.

· DaBurger Triple Play - A pork patty topped with cheddar, bacon, pulled pork, BBQ sauce and caramelized onions. Asian Burger also available.

· Smashers - Handheld twist on the Panini, served with dipping sauces.

· The Sloppy Jane - Vegan twist to a classic favorite. Tempeh, peppers and onions, with molasses and brown sugar barbecue sauce, served on a vegan wheat bun.

· Ballpark treats - New candied popcorn and pretzel braids.

White Sox closer? Wait till Opening Day to find out

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura said the world might not know who his closer is until the ninth inning on Friday -- assuming the Sox need one against the Texas Rangers on opening day.

"Hopefully when we're winning in the ninth in the first game,'' Ventura said Monday when asked when his decision will be known.

"I will know and they will know,'' Ventura said. "I don't really feel the need to tell everybody and make a statement about it. I don't see a need to do it.''

Ventura has been saying he'd make it known when the Sox are in Houston Tuesday and Wednesday for exhibition games. Ventura said he hasn't decided.

"We have an idea, I don't want to say it right now,'' he said.

Veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, and rookies Hector Santiago and Addison Reed are the possibilities. Thornton, an All-Star setup man in 2010, had the job out of camp last season and lost it . After he gave up two singles and two walks Sunday -- while Santiago (0.90 ERA) threw a perfect inning -- Ventura might be having a hard time not giving the job Santiago. Ventura said he has no qualms about giving it to a rookie.

"No. He's definitely a possibility,'' Ventura said of Santiago. "So is Addison, Matt and Jesse. I feel good with the back end of our bullpen.''

"I'm impressed,'' Ventura said of Santiago. " Not just his ability but how how he carries himself. His personality ... he's been fun to watch.''

If Ventura is leaning toward Santiago, it's possible he's holding off on announcing it to avoid putting a lot of attention on the rookie leading up to the opener.

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