Injuries force lineup shuffle

Injuries force lineup shuffle

OAKLAND -- When the White Sox players started filtering out to the field for the bottom of the ninth inning of Wednesday's game against the A's at McAfee Coliseum, the final outcome of this particular contest had pretty much become immaterial.

And it was a still a 1-1 tie, with the White Sox fighting to finish off their eight-game road trip 7-1, and claim another series victory.

Instead, all eyes were focused on the shortstop position and the White Sox player who would be temporarily filling that void.

It was unlikely to be starting shortstop Juan Uribe, who was on the sideline with a sore right groin, suffered Tuesday night while he was trying to back away from Keiichi Yabu's inside pitch. Prior to Wednesday's contest, Uribe expressed hope that he would be back in action Friday, when the White Sox return home to face Detroit, but it could take him a few more days to heal.

Tadahito Iguchi's entrance was out of the question. The starting second baseman bruised his right knee Tuesday while standing strong during a double-play turn, and he had been given the day off. Utility infielder Pablo Ozuna also was on the shelf, removed from the starting lineup prior to Wednesday's contest, when his sore left wrist would not allow him to swing the bat. Yabu hit Ozuna with a pitch Tuesday night.

Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt had ejected Joe Crede, who started a game for the first time in his career at shortstop, despite playing at only 75 or 80 percent with a sore and swollen left foot. There seemingly was nobody remaining, short of third base coach Joey Cora being activated.

Paul Konerko could move from first base to third, with Ross Gload coming into the game at first. Those moves would place Chris Widger at shortstop, the same Widger who made his first career appearance at third base to start the afternoon.

The honor eventually went to Jermaine Dye, who moved in from right field, with Timo Perez taking his place. Dye joked before the game about taking ground balls with Willie Harris, who replaced Iguchi in the starting lineup, and Crede. Apparently, Cora and bench coach Harold Baines remembered those infield practice sessions.

"It happened so fast," said Dye, who didn't make any direct plays in the bottom of the ninth. "In my mind, I thought Gload would go to first and Konerko would go to third.

"But I happened to be the one. I think Joey hitting me grounders the last couple of days, he felt I could move around better than the other two."

Dye admitted to a strong case of nerves when he first took to the infield, as evidenced by his initial warmup throw sailing high over the head of Konerko. Once he was given the glove he used to take infield practice, Dye said that he fit right in.

Ron Washington, Oakland's third base coach, also gave Dye a little unsolicited advice, in terms of footwork and positioning at shortstop. Washington hit Dye ground balls last year, when both were with Oakland, in preparation for this same sort of emergency.

Wednesday was an infield emergency of the highest order for the White Sox. In one instance Wednesday morning, Guillen was talking to the media before the game and expressing how happy he was that Ozuna was healthy enough to play. Five minutes later, he was moving around the clubhouse, telling Widger that he was starting at third and Crede would be moving to shortstop.

Crede remembered playing two games at shortstop during the 2000 Arizona Fall League playoffs and smiled when he recounted a couple of errors made on the job. He handled three chances flawlessly Wednesday, starting a double play on Jason Kendall to end the third.

"At first, I was definitely nervous as far as the situations and knowing where to be," said Crede, who thought Guillen was kidding when he was first informed about playing shortstop. "You never want to be in a situation where you're embarrassed. But the bottom line was, once I got out there, everything seemed to flow and I had fun with it."

   Jermaine Dye  /   RF
Born: 01/28/74
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Widger echoed Crede's sentiments. He had just two plays in the field, but worked the spacious foul ground in the seventh to haul in a Nick Swisher popup and strand Erubiel Durazo at third base with less than two outs.

After quickly finding a glove that would work on the infield, Widger's focus went from survival to winning the game for starter Freddy Garcia. The big right-hander pitched seven solid innings and was lucky enough to retire 12 Oakland hitters on flyouts or popouts. But it wasn't an intentional strategy from Garcia, not even with the makeshift infield behind him.

"I tried to keep the game close and see what happens," said Garcia, who allowed Durazo's home run over seven innings. "You've got to concentrate and compete. My plan was to go out there and be aggressive. That's what I did."

"Crede was, I think, more nervous than I was playing shortstop," Widger added. "I just got lucky enough that they had a lot of lefties and everything they were hitting was to the other side."

The White Sox need more than a little luck in order to avoid a repeat situation Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Guillen wouldn't even venture a guess as to who would be ready and who would be out of action, not with a full day's worth of treatment ahead of the injured players.

But Guillen was proud of the way his remaining healthy charges fought through adversity. He was even more pleased by the way they threw pride to the wind and tackled unknown, and possibly embarrassing, positions for the good of the team.

"I feel blessed by managing these kids," Guillen said. "They just go to do whatever you need them to do. Maybe they want to have fun playing somewhere else. But if you are the manager, you appreciate it.

"Right now, it's like we were fighting with Mike Tyson [Tuesday] night," added Guillen with a laugh. "Everybody is pretty banged up. Thank God we have a day off tomorrow."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.