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Notes: Podsednik keyed success

Notes: Podsednik keyed success

CHICAGO -- If there was a face to be put on the official alert signifying the White Sox change to small ball for the 2005 season, then Scott Podsednik would have been the logical choice.

And if this change from a power-packed lineup to an attack based more on speed and bat control didn't work, the blame would have fallen directly on general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. After the architects took the hit, though, there would have been enough blame remaining to target the soft-spoken left-handed leadoff man.

The trade bringing Podsednik from Milwaukee, in exchange for offensive force Carlos Lee, was the key swing for this team offensively. The White Sox hoped they had acquired a true standout at the top of their order, a very rare commodity, not to mention a true hard-nosed baseball player that could only help this group reach its ultimate goal.

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With change, though, comes expectations, and it would have been very easy for Podsednik to carry too much of that hope for team greatness on his shoulders. The chance for failure seemed to outweigh the chance for success -- until Podsednik actually took the field for the White Sox.

"It would have been easy for me to sit back and put pressure on myself, thinking that this club is looking for me to do big things," said Podsednik, prior to Sunday's second game of the World Series. "It's especially true with the season I had in 2004.

"I suffered offensively. But I take pride in helping ballclubs win using my ability. I'm out there getting myself on base, trying to get into scoring position."

Podsednik's 2004 season, in which he hit .244 for the Brewers, was a steep dropoff from his 2003 rookie campaign. In fact, Podsednik's .313 on-base percentage in 2004 was lower than his 2003 average of .314.

But Podsednik spoke during the season of how he refocused his offensive game, giving up any potential power simply to reach base in any way possible. The results translated into his first All-Star appearance, a .290 average and 59 stolen bases.

His contributions also played a major role in helping the White Sox reach their first World Series since 1959. Podsednik made the most of his first opportunity on the game's biggest stage, with two hits and one RBI during Game 1.

The plan put into motion at the end of the past Winter Meetings worked about as well as the White Sox or Podsednik could have imagined. Playing a featured role in the World Series, not to mention facing fellow Texan Roger Clemens in Game 1, was the culmination of a dream for the 29-year-old who spent nine years in the Minor Leagues.

"When I was down there, I had no time to think about playing in a World Series," Podsednik said. "I was too focused to get to this level. To finally get a chance to play three years ago, and to get a chance to play every day with the White Sox, that was a sense of accomplishment in my opinion.

"I don't have the words to describe what playing a game in the World Series was like, let alone facing Roger Clemens, with what he is all about and all he has accomplished. He's a no-doubt Hall of Famer. It was a special game, being Game 1, but also facing a guy like the Rocket."

Forced changes: Pitchers will be stepping into the batter's box during the next three games at Minute Maid Field, meaning designated hitter Carl Everett will be heading to the bench. Everett will be the first player off the bench, according to Guillen, but also look for Timo Perez as the team's top pinch-hitter and Pablo Ozuna to be used in pinch-running situations.

The versatility provided by Ozuna and Geoff Blum, both of whom can play anywhere on the infield, make them important elements in a National League ballpark. Guillen said he hadn't told Everett of the move, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion, even before Guillen's comments Sunday.

"I don't like telling the players about what I am going to do because that's when the managers get into trouble," Guillen said. "It's not because you don't respect the players. It's because the manager has the right.

"He should know. Have some common sense. I will let my players know when they will have the day off tomorrow. I'm not going to tell them they are not playing tomorrow. Why? I'm the manager, and I play the way I want."

Perfect plan: The White Sox could not have put forth a better offensive effort than the one employed during the first two innings Saturday night against Clemens. Granted, Clemens wasn't pitching at 100 percent, but they drove up his count by being patient and fouling off 16 pitches. Even Podsednik's strikeout to end the second covered 12 pitches.

It was a typical performance for the White Sox as a team -- keep battling and never give in.

"Sometimes, the result of the foul ball, especially those foul balls just missing down the line, tell me you are really close," White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said. "Oftentimes, if you put a bad swing on the pitch, it's going to be put in play. You are going to hook it on the ground.

"Saturday was a good day for us. We really did our job."

Walker mentioned that the White Sox originally had thoughts of putting down some bunts early, making Clemens move around and test that strained left hamstring.

Remember me? Freddy Garcia, who will start Game 4 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, began his career as part of the Astros' Venezuelan baseball academy and was signed as a free agent by the team in 1993. The right-hander eventually was traded to Seattle on July 31, 1998, along with shortstop Carlos Guillen, as part of the Randy Johnson deal.

But as Garcia looks forward to Wednesday, he has no thoughts of the past working in his motivation for victory.

"I play for Chicago, and it doesn't matter if I played there before," said Garcia, who mentioned that he learned a great deal from the Houston organization but received an immediate Major League opportunity with the Mariners. "I don't have any feelings for them. I just have to go out and pitch my game."

Garcia was the winning pitcher in the American League Central Division-clinching victory at Detroit, and in the Division Series clincher at Fenway Park.

Playing it safe: Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez was warming up late in Saturday's game just to see how he felt, according to Guillen, and not really as a backup for closer Bobby Jenks. Part of Hernandez's routine is to throw regularly.

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

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