That smile had grown by a few inches by the time Thomas reached Angel Stadium on Friday. Dr. Richard Ferkel, who performed the original surgery on the fractured navicular in Thomas' left ankle one year ago, examined Thomas' latest fracture Thursday in Los Angeles, and the news was nothing but good in regard to the healing process.
Thomas not only reported that the examination found bone growth in the most recently damaged area, but also explained that his cast will be replaced by a walking boot in two weeks. Thomas was hoping for that move to take place Thursday, but Dr. Ferkel operated on the side of caution and protection with another possible celebration on the horizon.
The most significant piece of news delivered by Thomas was surgery looks to be anything but a necessity at this point.
"Yesterday was very encouraging," said Thomas of his latest examination. "It doesn't look like surgery, and that's a good thing. I don't want surgery. I'll stay in a cast until December if I have to because I don't want to get back to surgery.
"I feel fine and stood on it with no pain," added Thomas with a smile. "But [Dr. Ferkel] wasn't happy because I wanted to test it right away."
The plan for Thomas is to be with the team for as long as it stays stay alive, whether that run ends this weekend or lasts through a World Series title. The White Sox career home run leader seems more than happy to wait until after the postseason to discuss a future with the White Sox, which will give the team a little more time to obtain medical reports concerning his ankle.
Once again, Thomas spoke of how tough it is for him not to be participating in the postseason. But he also pointed out that it would be even tougher if he didn't contribute the 12 home runs during his earlier stint before the injury.
As for worries about the ankle problems becoming chronic, interrupting his plan to play three more solid years and pick up 52 home runs for 500, Thomas wouldn't entertain that thought. Not after the latest round of news was so encouraging.
"The first fracture wasn't all the way healed when I came back, and then I got back there with all this weight," Thomas said. "I'm not a small guy. Eight months wasn't long enough. I probably should have been out 10 or 10 1/2 months.
"I just have to get this thing healthy. This is the key. If it's healthy, I'm ready to play for a while."
Warm welcome: Taking a break from batting practice before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, A.J. Pierzynski casually mentioned to a few members of the Chicago media that Friday's game in hand should take the focus off his ninth-inning strikeout that wasn't Wednesday night. Pierzynski might have been a little premature in that judgment.
The loudest jeers of the pregame introductions at Angel Stadium were reserved for Pierzynski, who was warming up Jon Garland in the bullpen. Pierzynski didn't seem bothered by the reaction, smiling, shaking his head and tipping his cap twice.
If there was a player to be the center of the bad blood, then manager Ozzie Guillen knew Pierzynski was the right man to handle the job. In fact, he thrives on adversity.
"Everybody boos A.J. wherever he goes," Guillen said. "He loves that.
"I think it pumps him up. Every time they boo this kid, it makes him a better player."
No monkey shines: Guillen wanted to see higher quality at-bats from his lineup and continued strong starting pitching from Jon Garland moving into Friday night's contest. But he also wanted to see the Angels' world famous Rally Monkey as little as possible.
"Hopefully, we keep the little monkey in the cage," said Guillen with a laugh. "That little monkey drives people crazy.
"It's not easy to come here and see that little monkey jump up and down. Hopefully, we keep him in the cage and not wake him up."
No free passes: One of the reasons the White Sox are even at one game apiece through two games of the ALCS, despite having a .215 team average and .261 on-base percentage, is the fact that the Angels' numbers are lower in both categories. Pitching coach Don Cooper points to his pitching staff's lack of walks as a key element to continue in such a hard-fought series.
"When a team can hit and has threats up and down its lineup, like Boston and Anaheim and any team good in the playoffs, you can't walk guys and then let them get hits," Cooper said. "It will add up on us. We need to make the other teams beat us with the bats, and trust our defense behind us."
White Sox starting pitchers entered Friday with a string of 17 1/3 consecutive innings without issuing a free pass. Garland ended that stretch by walking Chone Figgins leading off the first.
Western woes: It has been frequently documented that the White Sox tend to struggle for survival when visiting teams such as the Angels, A's or Mariners. Despite a 2-2 record this year at Angel Stadium, the White Sox have a 5-15 mark in that locale since 2001. That ledger includes a 19-0 setback to the Angels on May 10, 2002, which is the worst in franchise history.
But the White Sox don't intend to let past history get in the way of playoff success for the best road team in baseball during the 2005 regular season.
"We know we've played well on the road," said center fielder Aaron Rowand. "It definitely doesn't hurt us. We don't go on the road going, 'Oh, man. We've got to go in there and play.'
"This team looks forward to the opportunity to go there and play. We have fun with it, and we've been successful doing it."
Of course, the 85-degree temperatures on the West Coast certainly beat playing through the cold and rain of New York.
A mere coincidence? For those who believe in the powers of numerology, here's a significant number to file away. The White Sox have not won a World Series title in 88 years, and umpire Doug Eddings' shirt number is 88.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.