DETROIT -- Cliff Politte could earn the rare All-Star nod for a middle reliever if all the planets align when the announcements are made Sunday afternoon. Politte's peers and Terry Francona, the American League manager, control those planets in this instance. Even if Francona decides to fill out his pitching staff with more relievers than starters, the first calls usually go to closers. Past history bodes well for Dustin Hermanson, who has a career-high 18 saves in 19 opportunities, a 1.48 ERA over 29 appearances and is in search of his first All-Star bid. Politte's numbers are equally impressive. Starting in middle relief and gradually working his way into a right-handed setup role, Politte has produced a 5-0 record with a miniscule 1.17 ERA. The 31-year-old has 31 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings, while walking just eight, and opponents are hitting a mere .130 against him.
His emergence also has allowed Ozzie Guillen to use Hermanson only in save situations or with the game on the line, keeping his finisher strong for the all-important second half of the season. The White Sox manager knows Politte deserves to be pitching in Detroit on July 12, but doesn't believe his under-the-radar status will help him. "They don't look at middle relievers and that's a shame," Guillen said. That thought process could change in 2005, and not just for Politte. Cleveland's Arthur Rhodes (3-1, 0.87 ERA), Detroit's Kyle Farnsworth (1-1, 2.32 ERA), Boston's Mike Timlin (2-1, 1.21 ERA) and Minnesota's Jesse Crain (7-0, 0.99 ERA) all have turned in deserving efforts, with Timlin's connection to Francona possibly getting him the nod. Francona, who selects four pitchers and one position player as the A.L. manager, also singled out Crain for his stunning numbers. Of course, Politte has his own tie-in to Francona, having pitched for him in Philadelphia during parts of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. But the humble Politte simply was glad to see his name on the ballot, voted on by the players, for the first time in his career. He's also fairly proud of contributing consistently to a first-place team. "Yeah, the most rewarding thing is to be on a team that I'm on right now," Polite said. "We have 50 wins, could have 60 by the All-Star break and then could be playing in the playoffs. That's more flattering than the other things. "I told a couple of guys on the team, I put myself in the situation to say I have a shot to make it. But I don't count on it. I won't be upset over it." During Tuesday's pregame talk with the media, Guillen quickly moved from two to four players when asked how many on his team deserved to be All-Stars. The two most likely inclusions are starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland, who received votes from Detroit manager Alan Trammell, according to his pregame comments. But Guillen also singled out second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, first baseman Paul Konerko and left fielder Scott Podsednik, not to mention his stellar relievers. "It's not easy to pick the roster for the All-Star team," Guillen said. "We have guys who should be there, and I know for a fact they aren't going to be there." A perfect fit? Ross Gload began his second injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday night, producing two hits in four at-bats. Gload has been on the disabled list since April 25 with left shoulder inflammation but said on Sunday that he's very close to returning to the Majors. Gload's only concern was where he fit on this current White Sox juggernaut. Guillen answered that question without any hesitation in regard to the backup first baseman. "What does he mean he doesn't fit in? He was on my team," Guillen said of Gload. "He will fit in, but we have to find a spot for how he can fit in. That's my job and Kenny's job. "But we need a first baseman to give Paulie a few days off, especially with this weather," Guillen added. Minor maneuvers: Josh Stewart's contract was sold by the White Sox to the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, a move announced Monday by the team overseas. Stewart, 26, posted a 4-4 record over 14 games and 11 starts for Triple-A Charlotte this season and has a 1-3 record in eight Major League appearances. The left-hander will be joined by first baseman Randall Simon, as the ex-Cub also signed a one-year deal. Stewart signed for a reported 27 million yen, or $245,000. The 2005 season came to a close for catcher Ben Davis when he had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. Davis, the switch-hitter acquired from Seattle late last June as part of the Freddy Garcia trade, hit .242 over 10 games and 33 at-bats for the Knights. He was a surprise subtraction from the team during Spring Training when Chris Widger won the backup catching spot. Price of fame: A strong South Side showing was on display Monday at The Taste of Chicago, with Brandon McCarthy, Willie Harris and Freddy Garcia signing autographs for excited fans. McCarthy's two-hour experience gave him a change of perspective, as compared to his very recent understated Minor League days. He also received one prevailing piece of advice from the primarily supportive fans. "Don't lose to the Cubs again, apparently, was the popular sentiment," said McCarthy with a smile. "Apparently, we were trying to lose. "It was cool to see something like that. You go from obscurity in the Minors, where something like that would never be that popular, to where you go to something like that where people are lined up waiting to meet you and sign autographs." Down on the farm: Casey Rogowski knocked out three hits, driving in three and scoring two, as Double-A Birmingham cruised to a 16-4 victory at Carolina on Monday night. Rogowski currently is hitting .325, with 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Charles Haeger earned the victory, improving to 2-0 with the Barons, and 10-2 overall for the season. The second start for Frank Viola II with rookie league Bristol was markedly improved from his first, as Viola fanned eight over five innings of one-hit baseball during the team's 3-2 loss to Bluefield in 11 innings. Brian Anderson doubled and scored two runs, giving him 50 runs scored for the season, as Charlotte topped Scranton-Wilkes Barre by a 4-2 margin. Coming soon: After an eight-day respite, McCarthy returns to the mound Wednesday night for his fourth career start. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings during his last start against Kansas City on June 20, but did not factor in the decision. The league is hitting .283 against McCarthy, who has given up 17 hits and walked eight over 15 innings.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.