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Konerko back in action for final 10 games

Retiring first baseman ready to test fractured left hand

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ST. PETERSBURG -- "This," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Friday, "is the start of it." The beginning of the end, that is. With just 10 games, and one last series in Chicago, left in his 18-year career, Paul Konerko is back on the field.

Konerko hasn't played since Sept. 2 because of a fractured left hand, but No. 14 was penciled into the White Sox lineup, batting sixth and playing first base, for Friday's night's series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

"I can still feel it in there a little bit, but I think it's more than ready to go give it a try," Konerko said. "Going back to 12, 13 days ago, I feel like I've come a long way -- because I was really nervous. Not that I wouldn't get back out there, but that it would just be, like, for show the last weekend.

"I'm happy. I mean, obviously I didn't want it to happen at all, but considering where I was two weeks ago, I'm happy I'm back right now. I thought it was gonna get tight towards the end, the way it felt. Best-case scenario would have been nothing, this would be the next-best. Plus, it was just a weight off my mind."

Konerko, 38, has been with Chicago for the last 16 years, the second-longest current tenure with a Major League team after Derek Jeter's run with the Yankees.

After dealing with the hand injury since the beginning of the month, Konerko told his manager that he was healthy before the series opener in St. Pete. He could have pinch-hit in Kansas City earlier in the week, saying he had his spikes on in the dugout on Wednesday, but Ventura wanted to give the veteran a few more days to heal.

Konerko said his hand feels strong enough that he doesn't foresee any setbacks, and that if he can get through Friday night's game, it should let him know he's good to go. He added that he hopes to get in as many games as he can on the current road trip, and play through any lingering pain in his hand, before he is honored in Chicago during the last series of the year.

"There's nothing really to save it for," Konerko said. "I'd like to get some at-bats and play a little bit on this trip, so I have a little bit of feel for next weekend. I don't think it'd be right for me to wait, wait, wait and jump in then."

Ventura said that Konerko wouldn't play every game, but would play "quite a few." And when the White Sox return home, Ventura said, "Obviously, the last weekend will be focused on him."

That last weekend in front of the hometown fans, friends and family is why Konerko's relieved his hand's gotten better faster than he thought. Well, maybe it wouldn't have mattered either way.

"I would've gone out there, in some capacity," Konerko said. "I don't care if it would've been taking three of the ugliest swings you've ever seen and strike out -- I wasn't gonna end it on the bench."

David Adler is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hot corner belongs to Gillaspie on South Side

Third baseman entrenched at position after strong '14; Davidson to continue development

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CHICAGO -- When the White Sox acquired Matt Davidson from the D-backs in exchange for closer Addison Reed last offseason, they appeared to have their third baseman of the future, and maybe even the present.

But with 10 games remaining in the 2014 regular season, it looks as if that position belongs to Conor Gillaspie, the same individual who hit .245 over 452 plate appearances for the team in '13. Gillaspie became more of a full-time option by improving his offensive numbers across the board, aside from a small drop in home runs.

Gillaspie's average stands at .290, and it sat at or above .300 from Opening Day through Aug. 29. The White Sox always have liked the easiness and fluidness of Gillaspie's swing, which has produced 31 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 57 RBIs, a .771 OPS and a .324 average with runners in scoring position. He has line-drive, gap-contact power that could put him anywhere in the lineup.

"You look at his numbers compared to third basemen across the league, and he measures up against just about all of them, from an offensive standpoint," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "Defensively, I think he's improved as well. The kid works extremely hard, and it's paying off for him."

"The more you play up here, the more difficult it gets, truthfully for me anyway. Especially if you can hit at all, it gets harder," Gillaspie said. "Most days are grind-for-your life days in baseball terms. Just fighting and scrapping. You have some times where everything goes well, but the rest of the time, it's pretty much just fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting. Try not to give too many away."

No tougher critic existed for Gillaspie than Gillaspie himself in his first big league season, and that fact remains true at a more comfortable level in his first season as an everyday player. As Hahn pointed out, though, Gillaspie trails only Adrian Beltre among American League third basemen average-wise. He ranks among the top five in doubles, triples, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Gillaspie plans to take the first month after the 2014 season and replay bits and pieces of what happened before trying to figure out what he needs to do to get better as a player. That plan worked well for Gillaspie going from the '13 offseason into the present campaign.

"I try not to dwell on those things I know I succeeded at," Gillaspie said. "I prepare myself for the following year in the offseason: just little bits and pieces at a time. I'm always going to be the guy that prepares as much as anybody at this level."

"We are fully comfortable going into next year with Conor at third base," Hahn said.

Where does that team confidence in Gillaspie leave the 23-year-old Davidson?

The left-handed-hitting Gillaspie has posted a .310/.369/.462 slash line over 342 at-bats against right-handed pitching, while producing a .223/.250/.320 slash in 103 at-bats vs. southpaws. There's certainly room for a right-handed hitter to work in at third base, and while that hitter could be Davidson at some point, there is nothing guaranteed for the White Sox eighth-rated prospect per

Davidson hit 20 homers and knocked in 55 runs for Triple-A Charlotte, but he also batted just .199 with 164 strikeouts over 478 at-bats. This subpar showing came after Davidson hit .308 during Spring Training.

"Matt would be the first to tell you it was a disappointing year," Hahn said. "He obviously wasn't able to pick up where he left off at the end of Spring Training, at which time we got a little bit of criticism for not breaking camp with him since he looked so good the last few weeks. You are still talking about an extremely talented kid, who is one of the better third-base prospects in the game at the end of the year.

"That ability doesn't just evaporate. We still very much believe in his upside. This year highlighted for Matt some of the areas in which he needs to improve, and some of the areas we talked about with him in need of refinement."

Hahn explained that Davidson was working with a timing mechanism in his swing back in Glendale, Ariz., and got locked in pretty well during those final few weeks of March. It got away from him for whatever reason at Charlotte, and once Davidson got deeply derailed, it takes a little time to get back on track.

"He heads into the offseason with fairly specific goals in terms of where he needs to get better," Hahn said. "He's still very young with a significant amount of upside, although based on the year, you don't head into the offseason penciling him in come Opening Day 2015 because of the season he had. He still can very easily work himself into our long-term plans over the coming year."

With Gillaspie entrenched at third base, Davidson has time to fix what ails him.

"Again, he gets it," said Hahn of Davidson. "He's a talented, talented kid. It's unfortunate the year went the way it did, but at the same time, he can learn from it. And in the long run, it will hopefully make him better."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Sale roughed up by Royals, loses AL ERA lead

Lefty gives up season-high five runs in series finale

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KANSAS CITY -- Anybody can have an off night, even Chris Sale.

That was the overriding message that was delivered loud and clear on Wednesday as the White Sox ace surrendered nine hits and five runs over just five innings in Chicago's 6-2 loss to the Royals.

It was the first loss for Sale in 10 road starts this season and occurred after a brilliant stretch in which Sale had compiled a 1.54 ERA over his previous six starts that had lots of people mentioning his name in conjunction with the Cy Young Award.

"It shocks you when that happens," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It just shows he's human. He'll bounce back. It's just that tonight wasn't his night."

The White Sox had a 1-0 lead in the third courtesy of Adam Eaton's sacrifice fly. Given Sale's reputation, Royals fans must have been nervously wondering if Sale would make that run hold up all evening long. But Alcides Escobar and white-hot Nori Aoki singled with one out in the third and Lorenzo Cain needed just one big swing to ruin Sale's night and add some fuel to the Royals' playoff charge.

Sale worked Cain for an 0-2 count, but then left a slow breaking ball up in the zone. Cain, who had just four homers in 435 at-bats, responded with a towering drive that cleared the left-field fence for a three-run homer. Before his night was over, Sale also surrendered a homer to Escobar.

"You go into that game knowing if you're going to get him, you better get him early," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Sale said he felt fine warming up. But once he took the mound, it was a struggle.

"Not exactly what the doctor ordered," Sale said. "You hang a breaking ball [to Cain] and leave a fastball out over the plate [to Escobar]. I wasn't good with my command tonight at all."

The long ball by Cain marked the first time Sale has ever given up a homer on an 0-2 pitch in his Major League career.

"I could tell he wasn't super sharp," White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said of Sale.

Flowers did feel that Sale had a good breaking ball after seeing him strike out Billy Butler with that pitch in the second. The idea was for Sale to go down and in with a breaking ball to Cain, but the ball stayed up.

"That was the plan, it just didn't get there," Flowers said.

Royals starter Yordano Ventura didn't have much trouble with the White Sox hitters, allowing just three hits in his seven innings. What Ventura did to the White Sox is what Sale usually does to the opposition.

Sale's earned run average went from an American League-leading 1.99 to a second-place 2.20 (trailing Seattle's Felix Hernandez -- 2.14) with Wednesday's outing. Current plans call for him to make one more start in Detroit, but there's room on the calendar for Sale to make two starts if White Sox officials are so inclined.

"I'd like to see this thing through," said Sale, who fell to 12-4. "But ultimately that's not my decision. Given that I missed some time early, I want to be able to show that I can sprint across the finish line."

When they next face the Royals in a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field next week to end the regular season, the White Sox will be looking for some answers on how to retire Aoki. Looking much like Ichiro Suzuki in his prime with a slap-and-dash style of hitting, Aoki set a Royals record by getting 11 hits in the three-game series. Aoki reached base 13 times in the series, which is the most in a three-game series since Kevin Kouzmanoff reached 13 times for San Diego in 2009.

Aoki had three hits off Sale, who is usually a nightmare for lefty hitters.

"He's fast, left-handed and gets out of the box quick," Sale said. "Watching him this series, he really put on a hitting clinic. What a series he had."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Konerko honored by Clemente Award nomination

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KANSAS CITY -- With less than two weeks remaining in his stellar Major League career, Paul Konerko is being lauded wherever he goes for the contributions he has made to his sport, both on and off the field. That sentiment was reinforced Tuesday when Konerko was named the White Sox nominee for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.

The Clemente Award pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who best represent the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Each of the 30 clubs nominated a player, and Wednesday marks the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and officially recognize local club nominees.

"There is no recognition more distinguished and honorable in baseball than the Roberto Clemente Award," said Konerko. "To be acknowledged as the White Sox nominee for the award is humbling, and it further emphasizes the importance of the role that we as players must serve in our communities. In this my final season, this is a touching and much appreciated tribute."

Konerko and his wife, Jennifer, founded the "Bring Me Home" campaign in 2007, as a family effort with former White Sox teammate Jim Thome and his wife, Andrea. They partnered with the White Sox and Children's Home + Aid to help raise awareness, generate support, recruit foster parents and advocate for the needs of foster children and their families.

Within its first seven years, the Bring Me Home campaign has raised nearly $450,000. Konerko also supports a variety of White Sox Charities efforts, and he hosts various groups at U.S. Cellular Field, including Patient Airlift Service (PALS) for Patriots and Make-A-Wish children and their families.

"Paul's impressive record of community involvement is the strongest demonstration of his leadership skills and his compassion for others," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "Paul leads by example both on and off the field, and he leaves a tremendous mark on Chicago with his personal efforts to help others who are in need. Just like his respected leadership on the field and in the clubhouse, Paul has been the consummate role model for the Chicago White Sox in our community for the past 16 years."

Clemente, a 15-time All-Star and Hall of Famer, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve of 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Carlos Beltran was the winner of the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award. There were more than 1.3 million fan votes last year, and fans can start voting again Wednesday at, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered to win a trip to next month's World Series.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by a selection panel of dignitaries. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and the official dugout lineup cards.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Bassitt to get another shot in rotation

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KANSAS CITY -- Although he struggled with his command on Tuesday and lasted just 3 2/3 innings, right-hander Chris Bassitt is expected to remain in the White Sox rotation.

"He's going to get another shot at it," manager Robin Ventura said. "I see Bass still throwing in the Detroit series."

Bassitt needed 94 pitches to get 11 outs. He allowed six hits, four walks and three earned runs. At one juncture, eight of nine Kansas City hitters reached base, but Bassitt didn't cave in and left with a 4-3 lead in an eventual 7-5 White Sox victory.

It was the first time in three starts with the White Sox that Bassitt did not complete at least six innings.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Wilkins struggling in first big league exposure

After stellar season at Triple-A, rookie unable to carry success to Majors

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KANSAS CITY -- Andy Wilkins had an outstanding season for Triple-A Charlotte, but has struggled at the plate since joining the White Sox.

After going 0-for-3 as the designated hitter in Tuesday's 7-5 win over the Royals, Wilkins was down to .091 (3-for-33) with one run batted in.

"You get here and realize how good the pitching is," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

Wilkins hit .293 for Charlotte with 38 doubles and 30 home runs.

"Hopefully, he can learn from it and ease his way out of it," Ventura said.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Konerko expected to get at-bats against Rays

Retiring team captain rehabbing broken left hand

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KANSAS CITY -- With an off-day looming on Thursday, the White Sox decided to wait until the weekend against Tampa Bay before giving Paul Konerko some at-bats that could help tune his swing before his farewell home appearances next week at U.S. Cellular Field.

After the weekend series against the Rays, Chicago moves on to Detroit for a three-game set before ending the season with a four-game home series against Kansas City. In those six games against Tampa Bay and Detroit, Konerko is expected to get enough looks at game-speed pitching to have him primed and ready for his last hurrah before the home fans.

Konerko hasn't played since Sept. 2 because of a fractured left hand. He has been taking batting practice in Kansas City, but manager Robin Ventura thinks it's prudent to give Konerko a couple of more days before facing live pitching.

"I think during the weekend we'll be able to give him hopefully a couple of at-bats," Ventura said. "If he's up for it, he can probably DH one of those games."

Konerko, who is retiring after a stellar 18-year Major League career, was saluted by the Royals' organization during his final Kauffman Stadium appearance on Wednesday. Royals left fielder Alex Gordon presented Konerko with a $5,000 check for Konerko's Bring It Home campaign.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Abreu's stolen base overturned by Royals' challenge

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KANSAS CITY -- The Royals began their rubber match with the White Sox on Wednesday night by winning a challenge.

In the top of the first with two outs, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu reached on a walk and took off for second when a Yordano Ventura pitch got away from catcher Salvador Perez. Perez fired to second, but second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Abreu beat the throw.

However, Royals manager Ned Yost challenged the call.

Replay officials in New York overturned it, and Abreu was the third out of the inning. Replay showed that Abreu's right foot did indeed arrive to the bag before the tag, but as Abreu continued his slide, his left foot came off the bag while Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar continued to apply the tag.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ace Sale lined up to make final starts on the road

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KANSAS CITY -- As things stand now, White Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale doesn't figure to pitch again this season before the home fans at U.S. Cellular Field.

Manager Robin Ventura said Tuesday that current rotation plans call for Sale to make his final 2014 start in Detroit next week before the White Sox finish at home with a four-game series against the Royals.

"At this point, that's what it looks like," Ventura said. "That he would pitch [Wednesday in Kansas City] and one more in Detroit. And maybe being lined up for the last day, but I don't see him getting rushed in to do that one. It's a long ways away. It can always change."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Gillaspie, White Sox solve Royals' bullpen

Infielder's three-run triple ends Herrera, Davis streaks, lifts Chicago

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KANSAS CITY -- Just call Conor Gillaspie the streak buster.

With one timely swing on Tuesday night, Gillaspie ended the two longest reliever scoreless streaks in the Major Leagues. Gillaspie's three-run triple off Wade Davis in the seventh inning lifted the White Sox to a 7-5 victory over the Royals and put the first serious dent in the back end of the Kansas City bullpen in quite some time.

Kelvin Herrera started the seventh inning with a 5-4 lead and a scoreless streak of 30 2/3 innings. The only reliever with a longer streak was Davis, who started the evening having gone 31 2/3 innings without giving up a run.

So, excuse the Royals' fans for feeling pretty confident after hot-hitting Nori Aoki put Kansas City up 5-4 with an RBI single in the sixth. Getting to the seventh with a lead has been the constant comfort zone for the Royals in their second-half playoff push.

Not this time, however. There was a string of quality at-bats from Chicago hitters in the seventh, with Gillaspie getting the decisive blow.

Herrera surrendered a leadoff single to Josh Phegley, and Adam Eaton added a single en route to a four-hit night. After Alexei Ramirez bounced into a forceout, Kansas City manager Ned Yost assessed the first-and-third situation and decided Davis was his best bet to maintain the lead.

Jose Abreu put forth a disciplined at-bat, refusing to extend his zone with two strikes. Abreu wound up drawing a walk to load the bases, and that brought up Gillaspie. After absorbing a two-strike count, Gillaspie maintained his focus and wound up delivering a liner to right-center that cleared the bases and ended the two longest reliever scoreless streaks going.

"The [triple] was a good pitch to hit," Gillaspie said. "The other ones, I had no chance at even touching them. Guys make mistakes and you have to take advantage of it. [Davis] has the best reliever stuff of anybody in the game, in my opinion.

"It worked out, felt good. We aren't going to be moving on after the [regular] season, but it's nice to keep competing and grinding out at-bats. These guys have some incredible arms."

The four-hour, 16-minute game featured a parade of pitchers. Kansas City used nine pitchers and the White Sox used six. It was the longest nine-inning game for the White Sox since May 2, 2009, versus Texas. But the long night was worth it for the Sox, as they atoned for what had been a frustrating loss on Monday.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura thoroughly enjoyed watching his hitters compete against Herrera and Davis in the seventh.

"When those guys come in and they've got a lead, they usually lock it down," Ventura said. "The big one was Conor's at-bat and shooting one through the gap. It's tough, because you know there's a possibility they are going to pitch around Abreu, so you have to have somebody behind him who can come through."

The White Sox (69-82) will try to win the series Wednesday with ace left-hander Chris Sale on the mound. Chicago will then have a lot more to say about who wins the American League Central with three games against Detroit and four more with the Royals to end the season.

If the Royals or Tigers want to work around Abreu in key situations, the thought of Gillaspie waiting in the on-deck circle won't be appealing.

"I'm not a four-hole hitter, but right now it is important to have a left-handed hitter behind Abreu," Gillaspie said. "I wouldn't say I'm nearly the threat that he is. But I'm going to battle and fight. The reality is that every at-bat matters. When you face pitchers like [Kansas City] has, you can't take a pitch off. If you take one pitch off, you're out. If you aren't ready to focus on every single pitch, you might as well walk back to the dugout."

Davis was scored on for the first time since June 25, while Herrera allowed a run for the first time since June 24. They could see a lot more of the White Sox before the season ends.

"We're comfortable with where we are at," Davis said. "We're going to come out [Wednesday] and be ready."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Out call on Viciedo confirmed on replay

Out call on Viciedo confirmed on replay play video for Out call on Viciedo confirmed on replay

KANSAS CITY -- The White Sox lost a second-inning replay challenge on Tuesday, as Dayan Viciedo was ruled out at second after rounding the bag too far on a single by Carlos Sanchez.

With Viciedo at first base and two outs, Sanchez hit a soft single to right-center. Viciedo rounded second, but couldn't get back in time as Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson threw the ball in to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who applied the tag.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura challenged the call in hopes that Viciedo had put his hand on the bag before Escobar made the tag. But the out call was confirmed by replay.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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High hopes, no set plan for Konerko's remaining ABs

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KANSAS CITY -- White Sox fans who attend the final 2014 home series next weekend against the Royals will be hoping to see Paul Konerko go out with a flourish. And manager Robin Ventura can dream those dreams as well.

Will it be a storybook finish for Konerko? Maybe a clutch hit in his final game?

"Or a homer to win it. You know?" Ventura mused. "Something like that. I don't know if either of us has a plan of how it's going to go. But we'll talk about it on this road trip, just to see what he wants, too."

Konerko reiterated Tuesday that he's close to returning from a fractured left hand, which has sidelined him since Sept. 2, and he figures to have some at-bats before he gets back to Chicago for his final home series.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Abreu learns from Konerko's professionalism

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KANSAS CITY -- The robust numbers tell a story of just how enjoyable this rookie season has been for White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. But those numbers don't tell the whole story.

While building an offensive resume that has his name being mentioned as a prime American League Rookie of the Year candidate, Abreu believes he has benefited immensely by getting an up-close-and-personal view of Paul Konerko's farewell season.

"I look up to Paul and admire him for everything he has done," Abreu said through a translator before Monday's series opener against the Royals. "I'm very lucky and fortunate to have Paul as a teammate and see how he goes about his business day in and day out.

"Even though it's his last season, I still see him working very hard. He is working as hard as he did from day one."

White Sox fans will say goodbye to Konerko next week at U.S. Cellular Field, but they're just saying hello to Abreu as they look for a new offensive star. Abreu went into Monday ranked third in AL batting average (.322), third in home runs (35) and second in RBIs (102).

Abreu said he started the season around 255 pounds and now weighs a preferable 244 pounds as he bids to put a big exclamation point on the statement he has made in 2014.

"This is my playing weight," Abreu said. "This is the weight that feels most comfortable."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

White Sox 'pen burned by KC's speed in ninth

Petricka's wild pitch, walk-off infield single spoil Danks' fine start

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KANSAS CITY -- Amidst the blur of ninth-inning craziness, there was only one pitch that White Sox closer Jake Petricka wanted back on Monday night.

Working with a one-run lead and two outs, Petricka looked back to see the ultra-speedy pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson perched at second for a Royals' team that had been battling uphill all evening. It was almost a given that Dyson would try to steal third, but Petricka didn't care. His focus was getting Nori Aoki for the 27th out. Only problem was, Petricka delivered a fastball that landed short of the plate as Dyson took off for third. When the ball bounced away from catcher Tyler Flowers, Dyson easily scored the tying run. Aoki then doubled, Terrance Gore pinch-ran and Lorenzo Cain's infield chopper through the middle was elusive enough for a streaking Gore to score from second to hand the White Sox a 4-3 loss.

When you think of a team literally being run out of the ballpark, you don't think about it happening this way. Two pinch-runners with sprinter speed scored from second on plays where the ball never left the infield.

"I can't say I've seen it twice in one inning, but there it was," Petricka said after the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

The wild pitch, coming on a play where Dyson stole third, was a dagger. Petricka just wanted a chance to retire Aoki when he still had the lead.

"It was a tough-luck inning, but it comes down to the first pitch to Aoki," Petricka said. "I can't come up short on a fastball [resulting in a wild pitch]. Looking back at the inning, the only thing I regret is that one pitch. Everything else, I made my pitches."

The comeback win was huge for the Royals (82-67) in their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 1985. Unable to mash Chicago pitching, the Royals erased a 3-0 deficit over the final three innings with a couple of well-timed opposite-field hits from lefties Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and speed galore that put the pressure on the White Sox's defense.

"Speed can do a lot of things," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

Left-hander John Danks extended his unbeaten streak against the Royals to 15 games by delivering six shutout innings. The White Sox racked up 10 hits over seven frames against James Shields, but they failed to get tack-on runs after scoring once in the first and twice in the third.

Thus, the Royals were still in position to scratch out a win without much authoritative hitting once Chicago's bullpen got into the mix.

"We never hang our heads," Dyson said. "Like tonight, we got behind, but we were able to make some things happen late in the game and the speed was key for us at the end."

On the play that produced the tying run, Dyson had a big jump toward third as Petricka concentrated on the batter. That made it convenient for him to round the base and score without a play as Flowers chased down the wild pitch.

"It was just the defense playing back," Dyson said. "They aren't going to run any pickoff moves there, so just get a jump and go in. I kind of peeked in and I saw it kick. It took a big 'ol hop and I saw that."

The White Sox had five multi-hit innings, but they managed just the three runs as Shields avoided the knockout punch.

"We had a lot of opportunities," Ventura said. "We never got the one big hit to put it out of reach."

The White Sox (68-82) just wished they could have rewarded Danks with a victory. The veteran left-hander came in 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA over his previous eight starts. The only two hits Danks allowed were singles by Aoki, who finished 4-for-4 and was on base five times. The glitch for Danks was four walks.

"Command wasn't where I wanted it to be, but I was able to make enough pitches at the right time to get out of some stuff," Danks said. "I am going to compete and do what I can to give us a chance."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


White Sox likely to stay with six-man rotation

White Sox likely to stay with six-man rotation play video for White Sox likely to stay with six-man rotation

KANSAS CITY -- In their quest to make the postseason for the first time since 1985, the Royals will be keeping an eye on White Sox manager Robin Ventura's rotation plans for the final two weeks.

Unless Ventura drops two pitchers from the current six-man rotation, ace left-hander Chris Sale would only face the Royals one more time. But if Scott Carroll can't go because of a fingernail issue and Chris Bassitt struggles on Tuesday in a start at Kauffman Stadium, it's conceivable Sale could still get a final start in a four-game series against Kansas City to end the regular season.

"Right now, we'll probably just keep the six in there," Ventura said. "You are waiting to see what Bassitt does and go from there. When he goes [Tuesday], we'll be able to figure out if we're able to [keep him in the rotation]. If Carroll's fingernail is OK, he can continue to go in there. If not, you make adjustments."


Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Konerko moving toward return during road trip

Konerko moving toward return during road trip play video for Konerko moving toward return during road trip

KANSAS CITY -- Paul Konerko still wasn't ready to rejoin the lineup on Monday, but he appears to be getting closer to a return for the final few games of a stellar 18-year career, including 16 with the White Sox.

Konerko has been sidelined since Sept. 2 with a fractured sesamoid bone in his left hand.

"It's coming along," manager Robin Ventura said before Monday's series opener against the Royals. "It's the impact that you are worried about. He can move his hand around enough to get by, but we'll see what happens when he makes impact and go from there. He's encouraged by it, so it looks like he's getting closer to playing."

Konerko took about 30-40 swings on Saturday, both off a tee and via soft toss. Konerko said over the weekend that he believes that if he isn't able to play at the start of this nine-game road trip in Kansas City, he'll be in the lineup by a weekend set at the Rays after an off-day on Thursday.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Abreu ties White Sox rookie home run record

First baseman slugs 35th to tie Kittle's mark from 1983

Abreu ties White Sox rookie home run record play video for Abreu ties White Sox rookie home run record

CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu doesn't have a clear recollection of meeting Ron Kittle. He has been introduced to so many people in this first year with the White Sox that it's difficult to remember everyone. But with one more home run over the 2014 season's final two weeks, Abreu will pass Kittle for the franchise single-season rookie record in long balls.

Abreu went deep against Minnesota closer Glen Perkins leading off the bottom of the ninth during Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Twins. He hit a 0-2 slider and hooked it down the left-field line for home run No. 35. Kittle reached that same mark as a rookie in 1983.

"All my respect goes to Ron Kittle for having had the rookie year he had," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "Now that we share a record, I'm really proud of the accomplishment."

"That last home run, if that's not the definition of power, I don't know what is," said White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton of his power-packed teammate. "With the shadows, I don't even know if he saw it, but the barrel got to it and the ball went. The power is there. He continues to work hard and good things will come his way for sure."

Abreu's fourth-inning single combined with the homer gave him 102 RBIs and a .322 average for the season. He homered in back-to-back games for the fourth time this season and the first since early June. He entered the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader without a homer in September, but nobody was ever worried about his power drought.

And the 14-pitch walk he drew off of Perkins to set up Dayan Viciedo's walk-off shot in the ninth of Saturday's night game illustrated that power stands as a byproduct of Abreu's offensive excellence.

"He's a better hitter than he is a power hitter and he's a heck of a power hitter too, so that's the way I look at him," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of Abreu. "He's not just a slugger. He's a thinking-man's hitter."

"The power is going to be there," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Abreu. "He went through a little stretch where he wasn't hitting many home runs, but it's there. That's part of him learning to go through a full season. I don't see it as when he went through it, he wasn't going to come back. Right now, he's as good as anybody in the league."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Kazanas honored with Roland Hemond Award

Kazanas honored with Roland Hemond Award

CHICAGO -- John Kazanas received the Roland Hemond Award from the White Sox prior to Sunday's series finale with the Twins in recognition of his heroic act helping a family in danger following a car accident in Arizona three months ago.

Kazanas was on his way from Arizona to Las Vegas for the Area Code Baseball Games tryouts, traveling on Highway 83, which Kazanas said is known as "White Cross Highway" because of all the accidents. The father of four and scout for the White Sox since 1992 watched as a truck with a trailer on the back moved lanes without seeing a van carrying a mother and her three children that it clipped and sent rolling into the median.

"The vehicle behind her avoided the debris and continued to move on," Kazanas said on Sunday. "As I got up to them, the car was still flipping as I was coming close to the side to pull over.

"I ran across the highway and heard screams and hollering and crying and cries for help. When I got there every darn van door was smashed. You couldn't get in. I went through the broken glass of the windshield to get them out."

According to Kazanas, the three children he helped rescue are OK, while the mother who was driving "is going through some issues presently."

"But just to hear their father, how grateful he is to have his kids on Father's Day, it was rewarding enough," Kazanas said. "I'd do it tomorrow if I ran across the same situation. I felt it was the right thing to do, having children and seeing things day in and day out, you want to make sure everybody comes out of it ok."

Hemond and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf presented the award on the field Sunday to Kazanas. The Roland Hemond Award was created in 2003 "to honor those who show a tireless dedication to bettering the lives of those around them," per the White Sox press release announcing Kazanas as the winner. The award is given to those who provide extraordinary personal sacrifice for the benefit of others, such as Kazanas.

"Thirty teams, every person in baseball, knows Roland Hemond and he has made an impact on helping scouts and player-development people," said Kazanas of the former White Sox executive. "And for me to have a little piece of that, from a gentleman that's an icon in baseball, it's pretty special."


White Sox fall to Twins, all but out of playoff race

Abreu ties club's rookie record for HRs with 35th long ball

White Sox fall to Twins, all but out of playoff race play video for White Sox fall to Twins, all but out of playoff race

CHICAGO -- The White Sox were all but eliminated from postseason contention by virtue of a 6-4 loss to the Twins Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, ending their four-game winning streak in the process.

This setback knocked them out of American League Central contention and the AL's first Wild Card, with an elimination number of one in the second Wild Card. Of course, the White Sox (68-81) didn't need that official "X" by their name in the standings to realize they weren't going to play in October. Their focus has been evaluating talent in September, but a 5-2 homestand still marked one of their top extended showings in recent weeks.

"It was great," said White Sox leadoff man and center fielder Adam Eaton of the team's week, which included three wins in four games against Oakland. "The overall enthusiasm in here and the overall drive to finish strong is here."

"You win some games, you play some tough teams, you play well against Oakland that's in the race," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "With the doubleheader, you never know what you're going to get. I thought the guys played tough. They're continuing to play hard, they're getting opportunities for the young guys and I think you're seeing that."

Jose Abreu provided one major highlight in Sunday's defeat, launching his 35th homer off closer Glen Perkins (34th save) leading off the ninth. Abreu opened the ninth by drawing a 14-pitch walk against Perkins on Saturday night, setting up Dayan Viciedo's walk-off shot, but this 0-2 connection tied the White Sox rookie record for home runs in a season with 35. Ron Kittle reached that number as well in 1983.

Abreu homered in back-to-back games for the fourth time this season and the first time since early June.

"I'm happy and proud of what has happened, how I've played this season," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "Thankful to god that I've been able to play and work the way I have and accomplish some of the things I have this season."

Trevor May (3-4) struck out a career-high 10 over six innings for the Twins, yielding three runs on five hits. May was perfect over the first three innings, before allowing four straight hits to start the fourth from Eaton, Alexei Ramirez, Abreu and Conor Gillaspie. Abreu singled home a run, while Gillaspie's single to left added a second.

But May struck out Avisail Garcia, Andy Wilkins and Viciedo to stall the rally.

"A couple guys hit good pitches, and I hung a curveball there to Alexei and he made me pay for it," May said. "It was weird that I was able to get the first nine guys [out] then gave up four straight hits. Just kind of limiting that as much as you can.

"Sometimes you've got to buckle down and just make one pitch at a time. I tried to do that and was able to get a couple strikeouts together."

Adrian Nieto's solo shot in the fifth, his second homer of the year, brought the White Sox within one, but it wasn't enough to topple the Twins (63-86). White Sox starter Hector Noesi (8-10) gave up five runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out three and walking two.

One of those runs came on Trevor Plouffe's solo homer in the second and two more scored on Jordan Schafer's home run in the fourth.

"I missed a few pitches," said Noesi, who threw 103 pitches. "And then they hit a few good pitches, too. I'm feeling fine. Just off a little bit with my mechanics. I'm trying to stay there and give my team six or seven innings."

Noesi hopes to finish this season strong, especially entering his first year of arbitration. The White Sox hope to do the same thing over the final two weeks, despite nothing more than personal pride on the overall agenda.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Cooper staunchly defends Belisario

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CHICAGO -- Ronald Belisario has only pitched once on this homestand, meaning fewer jeers from the crowd as he takes the mound. The veteran right-hander has underachieved this season, with a 5.57 ERA, .291 average against and .342 on-base percentage against. He also has a 7.11 ERA in the eighth inning and an 8.44 ERA in the ninth inning, according to

Despite these rough numbers, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper provides a staunch defense for the man who recorded eight saves as a temporary closer.

"Beli has come under a lot of fire," Cooper said. "I've seen over the years that our fans turn against somebody like that who just lets them down at times.

"This guy wasn't acquired to close. He tried to close. It didn't work out. But he's done well in many other situations. We had to call on some people because we were strapped."

Belisario came to the White Sox via a one-year, $3-million deal. He is arbitration eligible for the 2015 season, but while the White Sox clearly need bullpen help for the coming year, it would not be surprising to see Belisario non-tendered.

• White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the starting rotation will not be rearranged to get Chris Sale one extra start as an attempt to boost his 2014 AL Cy Young candidacy.

"I don't think that last start's going to be the deciding factor," said Ventura of Sale, who leads the AL with his 1.99 ERA. "If it is, his body of work over the course of the year is what it is.

"But I don't see us moving him to a point where we're rushing him just to pitch for that Cy Young thing. He's had a great year and we moved some pieces around that he get an extra day here and there, but we're not going to throw him on short rest just to be able to do that."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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White Sox lose challenge at first base

White Sox lose challenge at first base play video for White Sox lose challenge at first base

CHICAGO -- The White Sox challenged a call at first base in the third inning of Sunday's series finale against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, with first-base umpire and crew chief Larry Vanover originally ruling Danny Santana safe.

Santana's grounder up the middle was fielded by Alexei Ramirez, and the White Sox shortstop appeared to get Santana at first by a half of step with his throw to Jose Abreu.

But the video replay, as requested by White Sox manager Robin Ventura, which covered 2 minutes, 35 seconds, produced a ruling that the call stands. Santana moved as far as third base but did not score.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Viciedo's walk-off completes twin-bill sweep

Abreu hits one of three Sox HRs, works 14-pitch walk to set up winner

Viciedo's walk-off completes twin-bill sweep play video for Viciedo's walk-off completes twin-bill sweep

CHICAGO -- In a perfect world, 2015 White Sox baseball will look much like it did during a doubleheader sweep of the Twins on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Game 1 featured a career-high 13 strikeouts from Jose Quintana -- who forms an outstanding one-two punch at the top of the rotation with Chris Sale -- in a 5-1 victory. The nightcap featured a bit more offense, with the White Sox (68-80) working to their final at-bat before erasing a one-run deficit via Dayan Viciedo's walk-off, two-run shot against Minnesota closer Glen Perkins in a 7-6 final.

Viciedo's 21st home run, carrying 405 feet to left-center on a full-count offering, joined teammates Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia in the Game 2 long ball column. But it was Abreu's 14-pitch walk to open the ninth against Perkins, featuring eight straight foul balls at one point, that set the stage for the team's 33rd comeback victory and fifth game-ending homer.

"That at-bat, it was a difficult at-bat," Abreu said through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "But I went into the at-bat thinking to myself that I would do whatever I could to get on base and help tie the game. I just tried to work as much as I could to get the right pitch."

"The way he just settled in and just waited for his pitches and he fought, that was the fundamental thing to get on base and do whatever we can to tie the game or win the game," Viciedo said, also with the assistance of Hernandez. "That was a great at-bat, going pitch for pitch."

Kurt Suzuki's pinch-hit double in the ninth off White Sox closer Jake Petricka (1-4) gave the Twins a 6-5 lead. Chris Parmelee almost ran the Twins (62-86) out of the ninth, when he was caught trying to stretch his double into a triple with pinch-runner Aaron Hicks already standing on third, as Hicks had held up at second to make sure Parmelee's ball wasn't caught. But Suzuki picked up the Twins with his two-out hit.

This ninth-inning advantage marked the third lead lost by the Twins. They scored four in the first against White Sox starter Scott Carroll, highlighted by Oswaldo Arcia's three-run blast, but the White Sox answered in the bottom half off Logan Darnell on Garcia's three-run shot.

Abreu's solo homer in the fifth tied the game at 4, and Conor Gillaspie's pinch-hit single in the seventh tied the game once again at 5. The 411-drive to right-center for Abreu marked his 34th of the season and his 100th RBI, snapping a stretch of 69 at-bats and 80 plate appearances without going deep, covering 18 games. He also homered for the first time in September, and three of his five extra-base hits this month came in Saturday's doubleheader.

Only Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) have recorded at least 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs, as Abreu has now accomplished.

"One-hundred RBIs, that's a pretty big milestone," Carroll said of Abreu.

Carroll left after retiring 11 in row through the fifth due to a torn fingernail.

"I'm just really thankful that we swung the bat, because I didn't help my cause by getting in a hole, 4-0."

White Sox pitchers combined to strike out 26 Twins in the doubleheader. Minnesota pitchers fanned 19. Quintana became just the seventh left-hander in White Sox history to strikeout 13-plus hitters in a game. The others: Sale (five), Juan Pizarro (five), Thornton Lee (once), Doc White (once), Jack Harshman (once) and Gary Peters (once).

It was a long day featuring more than six hours of baseball, but a good day for the White Sox, who have matched their season high with four straight wins. They featured the perfect combination of pitching dominance and offensive fireworks.

"There at the end, we got the lead," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had the lead and we lost it."

"Our most important thing is that we are all here, and we are all working toward the same thing," Viciedo said. "When we are going well, it shows that we've put in the work."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Quintana's 13 K's pave way for Game 1 Sox win

Ramirez homers, Chicago adds insurance; club combines for 17 whiffs

Quintana's 13 K's pave way for Game 1 Sox win play video for Quintana's 13 K's pave way for Game 1 Sox win

CHICAGO -- With Jose Quintana and Phil Hughes on the mound during the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field, not to mention the tough shadows brought about by a 3:10 p.m. CT first pitch, contact became a four-letter word for hitters from the Twins and White Sox.

At one point in the opening contest, the two had combined to strike out 16 of 34 hitters. But it was Hughes who made the one mistake and Quintana who was just a little bit better in Chicago's 5-1 victory. The win extended the White Sox streak to three straight, which matched their longest home run of success this season, and extended their pitchers' scoreless innings streak to 21 in a row before Chris Parmelee's run-scoring double in the eighth off reliever Zach Putnam.

Hughes' one misstep came in the third, after Joe Mauer's fielding error on Carlos Sanchez's one-out grounder extended the inning. Hughes threw a 93-mph fastball down the middle to Alexei Ramirez, who knew what to do with it, hitting a line-shot homer to left. Ramirez now has 15 homers and 67 RBIs for the season.

It was all Quintana (8-10) before and after that homer. Quintana struck out a career-high 13 in seven-plus innings, including six in a row through the fifth and the sixth. Kennys Vargas' groundout to Ramirez to open the seventh prevented Quintana from tying the White Sox single-game record of seven straight held by Joe Cowley in 1986 at Texas.

"I like when I get a lot of strikeouts," said Quintana, who pointed to his fastball working on both sides of the plate as the key on Saturday. "Sometimes you have games when you don't have too much. But today I feel really good with that. I want to continue."

"He was good," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Quintana, who has 165 strikeouts over 185 2/3 innings this season. "It was tough to see; that's obvious. Both pitchers had the advantage, but you've still got to be able to throw strikes and attack, and Q did that."

Minnesota (62-85) finished with just three hits against Quintana, but put the first two runners on base to start the fifth via a walk to Trevor Plouffe and Oswaldo Arcia's single. Quintana proceeded to strike out Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Escobar and Aaron Hicks to squelch the threat.

In 81 of his 85 career starts, Quintana has issued three walks or fewer, with just the two Saturday. He also has allowed one homer over his last six starts covering 37 1/3 innings.

Andy Wilkins' single off Hughes in the seventh scored Jordan Danks with an insurance run for the White Sox (67-80). Hughes (15-10) finished with 11 strikeouts, but he was charged with five runs -- three earned -- when the two runners he allowed to reach base to start the eighth eventually scored. Marcus Semien's pinch-hit double scored Ramirez, who had doubled, and Tyler Flowers was hit by a Michael Tonkin pitch with the bases loaded to force home Jose Abreu, who was hit by Hughes.

Abreu doubled twice in the victory, giving him 70 extra-base hits in his rookie season. It was his first game with multiple extra-base hits since July 31, and just his third and fourth extra-base hits of September.

"I'm confident he's going to be able to have power and hit for power," Ventura said of Abreu. "He's hitting for average, he's getting quality hits for us and that's all you can really ask."

This first game was about Quintana, who anchored a 17-strikeout effort for White Sox pitchers and strongly followed Chris Sale's eight shutout innings Thursday against Oakland.

"He'll go off the plate. He changes speeds. He moves the ball in and out. He throws a nice little breaking ball in there for effect," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Quintana. "Then he goes back out there and keeps painting away, away, away, and he'll give you just enough and make you kind of hang yourself by making you throw that ball away."

"Following Chris Sale is really good," Quintana said. "One-two guys for the rotation, him and me, is really important for the team."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked play video for Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Abreu makes rookie history by reaching 100 RBIs

Fourth all-time to hit century mark with 30 doubles and 30 HRs in first season

Abreu makes rookie history by reaching 100 RBIs play video for Abreu makes rookie history by reaching 100 RBIs

CHICAGO -- With one fifth-inning swing of the bat by Jose Abreu during the White Sox 7-6 Game 2 victory over the Twins on Saturday night, the rookie designated hitter ended a long home run drought and made history at the same time.

Abreu's 34th home run, traveling 411 feet to center field off Minnesota's Logan Darnell, snapped a stretch of 69 at-bats, 80 plate appearances and 18 games without going deep. This .321 hitter, who had four hits and four runs scored in Saturday's doubleheader sweep, also has 35 doubles to go with his 34 homers and 100 RBIs. He joins Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) as the only rookies in Major League history to record at least 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

The homer moved Abreu within one of the single-season White Sox rookie home run record, set by Ron Kittle at 35 in 1983. He also became the fourth rookie in White Sox history to reach 100 RBIs, joining Kittle (100, 1983), Smead Jolley (114, 1930) and Zeke Bonura (110, 1934).

"The thing I'm most thankful for is this organization for the opportunity to play this game at this level," Abreu said through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "I'm happy about 100 RBIs. I'm happy about 34 home runs. I'm just happy how I've been able to do this, this season. I'm happy my family is here with me. I'm happy for my success."

Abreu showed off another side of his excellence leading off the ninth against Twins closer Glen Perkins by battling for 14 pitches, including eight straight foul balls, before working a walk that set up Dayan Viciedo's walk-off two-run homer one out later. Even when Abreu wasn't going deep, as he hadn't in September prior to Saturday, he was providing these sorts of quality at-bats.

"For him, just the bat speed, everything else, it's there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Abreu. "It's a long season, but in the end, you know he's the guy you want to put your buck on. He continues to have great at-bats, learning how to do it, but he's also shown guys how to do it, which is great. He's a leader -- that's what he is."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Konerko will miss Chicago as much as baseball

Injured White Sox captain plans to be back on the field for final homestand

Konerko will miss Chicago as much as baseball play video for Konerko will miss Chicago as much as baseball

CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko took what he termed as dry swings on Friday and was planning to hit off a tee Saturday in testing the fractured sesamoid bone in his left hand. Konerko will have just 14 games overall and four home games remaining after this weekend before retirement -- and an end to his 16-year-run with the White Sox. He plans to get back on the field prior to the finale on Sept. 28, or even Paul Konerko Day on Sept. 27.

While Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty of praise Saturday for one of the more respected players in the game, he didn't sound saddened that his Twins will no longer have to face the White Sox captain.

"We've been nicer to him than he's been to us. He's gotten plenty of home runs on us," said Gardenhire of Konerko, whose 50 career homers against the Twins are his highest total against any team. "We've added to his totals and I've had the opportunity and the pleasure to watch him trot around the bases -- I guess, if you can call it a pleasure -- a few too many times.

"He's a class act. He's been a very good baseball player over there, a clutch RBI guy, a clutch home run guy. And you know what? When you think about the Chicago White Sox, his name is going to be up there at the top. It's nice to be recognizing him and watching him get patted on the back for all those accomplishments, because he's been very, very good for the game of baseball."

Konerko spoke recently as to how nothing compares to the challenge of a 162-game baseball schedule, with his part-time role this season being easier to handle than being on the diamond for somewhere around 150 games per season. But what he'll miss even more than baseball is the city of Chicago.

"Not being able to be in this city, that's unfair, because this is a great city. I'm upset that has to go with [my retirement]," Konerko said. "I can still come back and all that stuff. But … the whole ball of wax of being here, playing and being in the city for six months at a time, it's not going to be like that anymore.

"With the family and kids, there are so many things you get connected to here -- the people, the restaurants, all that stuff. That's one thing that is probably the toughest. Maybe I'm wrong on that. Maybe I'll have a different look a month from now. But to just be done with the city of Chicago because you're done playing, that's probably the toughest thing to deal with in my mind right now. I love the house I have here. I love the neighborhood. And that's all just going to be all done."

No set plan for Abreu

• White Sox manager Robin Ventura does not have a master plan established in terms of playing time for Jose Abreu over the final 16 games this season.

"It's just day by day. You see how he's doing," Ventura said. "He wants to play, I know that. We'll just make adjustments. You still want him out there. I think he's better when he's actually out on the field playing than when he's DH-ing. There's no plan, but you talk to him every day and you come up with one."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Garth visits his baseball friends on South Side

After chat with fellow Oklahoma St. alum Ventura, country icon takes cuts in BP

Garth visits his baseball friends on South Side play video for Garth visits his baseball friends on South Side

CHICAGO -- The thunder rolled through Chicago on Friday night, postponing the series opener between the White Sox and Twins. But it was dry enough during the day for recording artists Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood to visit a few "friends in low places" and take batting practice at U.S. Cellular Field prior to their shows in Rosemont, Ill., later that night.

Brooks and Yearwood, who are finishing up a run of 11 high-energy performances at the AllState Arena this weekend that began last Thursday night, and their band members visited White Sox manager Robin Ventura and bench coach Mark Parent. The famous musical couple is friends with the White Sox leaders.

Ventura actually has known Brooks since the two were at Oklahoma St., where Brooks received a track scholarship.

"He was hitting the [concert] circuit around there and then always coming back, doing things," said Ventura of Brooks. "But once he hit it, he was off and running. So you would run into him every once in a while. And then when I was with the Mets in 2000, he did Spring Training with us. So that was a lot of fun.

"His swing is slowing down a little bit. I can say that. He had fun, though. Even for him or his band, to come out here, it's just a break for them. They are out here for over a few weeks. They are doing the same thing every day, so it's just fun for them to get out here and run around and do baseball stuff."

After taking his cuts and perfecting the "dive and roll" while chasing outfield fly balls, according Ventura, Brooks and Yearwood posed for pictures with numerous members of the organization. That sort of friendly nature is as associated with Brooks as his million-selling hits.

"He's just a tremendously nice person," said Ventura of Brooks, with both men having been inducted into the Oklahoma St. Alumni Hall of Fame as part of the same 2009 class that included Barry Sanders. "It's hard to tell people just how genuine and nice a person he is. He's a pretty good entertainer too. He's a good person. His family -- great people, too.

"So, they had fun, him and Trish. It's just a break in the action for what they are doing. We were glad we could provide that. It's fun for our people too."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Sale drops ERA to 1.99 with eight shutout innings

Lefty strikes out nine, walks two; Semien homers off Kazmir

Sale drops ERA to 1.99 with eight shutout innings play video for Sale drops ERA to 1.99 with eight shutout innings

CHICAGO -- Opposing pitchers don't have the luxury of making mistakes against the White Sox in games started by ace hurler Chris Sale.

Oakland's Scot Kazmir made precisely one mistake, resulting in a Marcus Semien sixth-inning home run, during a brilliant complete-game effort Thursday afternoon at a chilly U.S. Cellular Field. And it was one mistake too many in the 1-0 victory for the White Sox (66-80), marking just the second time the South Siders have posted back-to-back wins since Aug. 2 (also on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2).

If Kazmir (14-8) was brilliant, then Sale once again defied description.

Sale (12-3) walked Coco Crisp to open the game, and allowed Jed Lowrie's one-out single in the second. He then retired the next 17 straight before Lowrie opened the eighth with a single to right. Sale also struck out nine and walked two.

One of those walks was issued to Alberto Callaspo with two outs in the eighth, following Lowrie's single. After a trip to the mound by manager Robin Ventura, who drew immediate boos from the crowd as he left the dugout, Sale was allowed to finish the inning. He retired Crisp on a ground ball to second baseman Carlos Sanchez, leaving him at 110 pitches and slightly over the team-imposed September pitch limit of 100.

His inning-ending departure from the mound was punctuated by Sale's celebratory fist pound into his glove. Ventura simply wanted to gauge Sale's state of mind, having watched his hurler enough times that he knows when a sequence of overthrowing might be coming and it might be time to remove him.

"Today I thought he had a great rhythm, just being able to throw pitches when he wanted to, getting back into counts. He was tough," said Ventura. "Any time he gets like that, he has the ability to throw a game like he did today."

"He's coming out there trying to give me a breather," said Sale of Ventura's visit. "'Getting past the 100-pitch mark, this is your last guy, so bear down right here. I'm giving you a breather, so let's go.' That's what that was."

Over 24 starts covering 163 innings, Sale has allowed 116 hits, 34 walks and 10 hit batsmen. He has fanned 192, and Sale dropped his American League-leading ERA to a miniscule 1.99. Sale has produced eight or more strikeouts in six of his last seven home starts, and the White Sox, a team sitting 14 under .500, have a 15-9 record behind Sale.

Sounds like the resume of a prime 2014 AL Cy Young candidate.

"I've thought about the World Series and Cy Young and all that stuff," Sale said. "But as soon as it comes in my mind, it comes back out because I don't play the game for that. I play for everybody in here."

"Off hand, I can't give you a number," said Lowrie, when asked where Sale ranks among the game's best pitchers. "But he's one of the better ones in the game."

The White Sox didn't exactly do much against Kazmir, finishing with just four hits. Kazmir struck out seven and walked one, getting taken deep on an 0-1 hanging curve to Semien. It was a nice bounce back for the infielder, who made three errors at third in Tuesday's loss, but played strong defense at shortstop Thursday to go with his fourth homer.

Three wins over the A's (81-65) became an overall bright spot for the White Sox. They have two remaining series against the Royals and one against the Tigers, so a team well out of playoff contention could have a significant say about a team or two reaching the postseason.

"You have to find something fun in this game and where we are at in the standings isn't fun," White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said. "We are not where we want to be, but you have to stay positive and have goals in mind to keep you competing and play hard every day."

"Hopefully, that's something in the future we can build on and just finish stronger in September," Semien said. "If we play our game, play good defense, put up some runs, we know that we can hang with those teams."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

White Sox, A's pause to remember 9/11 heroes

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CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura has vivid memories of the atrocities that took place 13 years ago on September 11, when two planes hit New York's World Trade Center Towers, killing close to 3,000 people. He was a third baseman for the New York Mets at the time and realized the role baseball played in the overall healing process.

"We were in the middle of it for most of that time and for baseball, as a player, you didn't realize how important it was to get back and play," said the White Sox manager. "Not necessarily for yourself but for everybody else.

"You went through a period of time where you didn't know if it was OK to smile or laugh or do anything like that. To be able to go back and play and people come to the game, that was their outlet. It wasn't necessary for you to have an outlet. I'm proud of the way the Mets handled it when I played there and of the things that we did."

Ventura mentioned that it was difficult going to the ballpark and focusing on baseball stuff, as the players realized many people at the ballpark had lost friends or relatives in the attacks.

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was in Nashville, Tenn., at the time, but the proud native of New York had relatives living just 10 minutes away from the World Trade Center. He remembers flowers, pictures and messages adorning the overpasses leading from his home into the city when he first returned. He remembers the city banding together as one, helping the police and fire departments. He also remembers David Letterman returning to the air after some time away and talking about New York as the greatest city in the world.

"Just a horrible, horrible day," Cooper said. "I remember it being tragic. I remember that I couldn't take my eyes off the TV, sitting there an many times weeping at the devastation and the loss of people.

"You could see the building from my porch. I remember going back home for the first time and looking to the left and the buildings were gone."

The White Sox and A's honored the day of remembrance prior to Thursday's game with military service members and first responders taking the field for a pregame moment of silence. Players, coaches and umpires wore hats adorned with the American flag, and a "We Shall Not Forget" silhouetted batter ribbon was displayed throughout U.S. Cellular Field. In addition, special lineup cards and base jewels were used for all games.

A's manager Bob Melvin served as the D-backs bench coach in '01, when Arizona beat the Yankees in one of the most memorable World Series in baseball history.

"We went in shortly thereafter and went down to Ground Zero and spoke to the first responders and saw firsthand what was going on. It's a day I'll never forget," Melvin said. "It was an off-day. We got in late and everybody was up early to go there.

"So inspiring to see that, and then on top of that what baseball did to kind of get past it, the entertainment value that ... certainly what was going on in New York and what the Yankees did in that Series as a whole, I think helped everybody get past it. But the thing that stood out the most to me was all the heroes that were a part of cleaning that thing up and getting past it and the people in New York being so resilient. It's very inspiring."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{} Columnist

Phil Rogers

Sale proves he is (in a word) great

White Sox left-hander's numbers compare to top starters in baseball

Sale proves he is (in a word) great play video for Sale proves he is (in a word) great

CHICAGO -- Let's simplify the White Sox offseason plan before it even gets formulated. Just clone Chris Sale. Then clone him again.

There's nothing wrong with the Sox that a couple more Sales wouldn't fix. Not that Sale believes the Sox are that far away, anyway.

'I think we're moving in the right direction," Sale said. "This team, it's not quixotic to make a playoff run for us [in 2015]. We're just fighting, working hard, trying to get to that ultimate goal."

Yes, quixotic. The best left-handed pitcher in the American League did say quixotic in his interview after beating the sinking A's, 1-0, on Thursday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.

Bryan Johnson, the White Sox video coordinator, selected that adjective as part of the "word of the start" game he's played with Sale throughout the season. They've tackled several other rarely used words -- among them juxtapose, repudiate, ameliorate, antithetic and cacophony -- and Sale refuses to be beaten by them.

So it is with lineups and opponents.

"He's good in big situations," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It helps him along the way."

As a teenager growing up in Lakeland, Fla., Sale loved to watch a young Scott Kazmir pitch for the Rays, especially in that World Series season in 2008. He engaged Kazmir in an intriguing pitching duel on the final day of a four-game series, and everything was working.

When everything is working for Sale, that counts for more than with almost any pitcher in the Major Leagues. He's been so good in his three seasons as a starter that his teammates expect him to be excellent.

"You do," catcher Tyler Flowers said. "He competes so well. He does such a good job of just being consistent. There's still the occasional start where he just doesn't have it and we try and survive, give up three runs and say, 'We did OK with what we had today.' But most days you expect him to have good stuff. He has three weapons. I think the difference this year is we're throwing more changeups as well."

In handing Oakland its third one-run loss of the series, and seventh in its last nine games, Sale gave up only two hits (both Jed Lowrie singles), walked two and struck out nine.

"It feels like you're almost stepping into the box 0-2 against him, because he's got such great command of all three of his pitches," Lowrie said. "When he's got the velocity and command like he did today, he's going to be tough."

There wasn't a big crowd at U.S. Cellular, but those who were there booed Ventura loudly when he headed to the mound after a two-out walk of Alberto Callaspo moved put runners on first and second in the eighth inning. He was cheered when he walked back to the dugout alone, leaving Sale in to face Coco Crisp.

Ventura insisted afterward that he would have lifted Sale, even though he'd thrown only 105 pitches, if he had seemed overamped. But Sale calmly explained that he could execute Flowers' plan and protect the 1-0 lead.

"Those scenarios, that's when the game starts speeding up on you," Sale said. "It happens to everybody, and it can happen real quick. For me, just trying to slow it down."

Sale started Crisp with a slider, then reached back for 94- and 95-mph fastballs. He got a grounder to second baseman Carlos Sanchez on another slider, and then he watched from the dugout as rookie Jake Petricka earned his 13th save.

Sale, 25, has had nothing but success in the big leagues. He received AL Cy Young Award votes in 2012 (finishing sixth) and '13 (fifth), but he should be in the conversation even more this season. Time on the disabled list April-May will hurt Sale some, but he's 12-3 on a 66-80 team and is leading the AL with a 1.99 ERA.

"It's cool," Sale said of his ERA dropping so low. "I've said it a million times. I'm not a numbers guy. I don't care about any of that stuff -- the strikeouts, the ERA, whatever it is. There's one stat that matters. It's wins. As many times as we can get on that left column, the better off we are."

While Sale might not care, it's worth noting he trails only the Mariners' Felix Hernandez in WHIP (0.92) and WAR (5.9). When you look at the difference in a team's record with one starter on the mound, Sale hasn't been as impactful as the Tigers' Max Scherzer and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw the last three years, but he stacks up favorably to Justin Verlander, Hernandez and almost everyone else.

That's impressive.

Sale has three starts left this season, probably (Ventura hasn't set the schedule), and they could determine who wins the AL Central. Two are against the Royals (assuming he starts the last day of the season) and one will be against the Tigers.

Can Sale flummox a couple more contenders? Will he be indefatigable until the end? Or will Sale suddenly, out of nowhere, appear supercilious?

Oh, the drama. And some fun, too.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.