Notes: Nelson back in the game

Notes: Nelson back in the game

CHICAGO -- Although he doesn't quite have the career numbers of Roger Clemens, Jeff Nelson had the opportunity to pick his own team like The Rocket after St. Louis released him at the end of a solid Spring Training.

A chance meeting in the back of the Safeco Field pressbox with general manager Ken Williams during the White Sox series in late April helped make that particular choice a rather easy one for the 6-foot-8 right-hander. Nelson signed a Minor League deal with the White Sox and worked his way up to a big-league promotion prior to Tuesday's game with Oakland.

Nelson was doing radio work in Seattle and living the family life with his wife and four daughters when he ran into Williams. Now, the veteran hurler with 792 career appearances gives the White Sox another late-inning relief option.

"Whatever they need," said Nelson of the role he envisions with the defending World Series champions. "It's just exciting to be back and playing one final time.

"They have a great team already. It's just helping out in any way."

Nelson, 39, posted a 1-3 record and 3.93 ERA in 49 games for Seattle last season. He also has pitched for the Yankees and Rangers during his career, still featuring a slider that could be very tough on right-handed hitters such as Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta and Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez or Magglio Ordonez from the American League Central. Just ask Frank Thomas, who is 4-for-30 lifetime against Nelson, with 11 strikeouts.

In order to build up his velocity, Nelson made four appearances with Triple-A Charlotte and departed with 5 1/3 scoreless innings and seven strikeouts under his belt. Nelson has pitched fairly extensively in the setup role during his career, but manager Ozzie Guillen isn't quite sure where he will fit in with Cliff Politte and Brandon McCarthy at the back end of the bullpen.

"I haven't seen him pitch in a long time," Guillen said of Nelson. "I had a good report from Kenny and the Minor League guys and we are going to see how he throws and see how we use him."

Guillen has faced Nelson during the right-hander's career, as has first-base coach Harold Baines and broadcaster Darrin Jackson. Nelson remembered Tuesday his first career pitch thrown against the White Sox in Chicago in 1992, and he hopes his last pitch is thrown in the championship season that is 2006.

"It's exciting to be back and it's great to be in a good organization like this," Nelson said. "They won the World Series last year, and I've always enjoyed coming here and playing against these guys.

"I've heard a lot of stories about how good the clubhouse is. I'm just looking forward to that part."

A plea for silence: As of Tuesday's pregame interview session, Guillen had yet to talk with Ryan Dempster following his verbal barrage thrown at the Cubs closer Monday in response to a round of misinformation painting Dempster in an adversarial light. Dempster left a message of apology for Guillen during Monday's game for the misunderstanding, and Guillen did the same after the White Sox victory.

But on Tuesday, Guillen asked for the focus to return to baseball and the aftershocks and rabble-rousing from the weekend series with the Cubs to come to a halt.

"I think the South Side should quit talk about this thing, the fight, and the North Side should shut up and keep playing," Guillen said. "This thing is starting to be like a soap opera. You look in the papers and this guy say this, and [Cubs manager] Dusty [Baker] say that and Ryan say this. And so do we.

"All the stuff in the paper just makes the people write and read something interesting. I don't have any problem with anybody with the Cubs. I don't care about the Cubs until we play against them [June 30 to July 2 at Wrigley Field].

"This keeps coming up, making comments, it can turn to a pretty ugly soap opera here because I will make one," Guillen added. "Just move on and play the game and worry about what they have to do and we worry about what we have to do. That thing is over, the fight is over. The next day, we played the game the way we should be playing."

Welcome home, Jim: It didn't take long for Jim Thome to make an impact on the White Sox offense. In fact, it happened almost instantly. But now the importance of Thome's trade to the White Sox has transcended the baseball field.

The White Sox designated hitter, who resides in downstate Peoria, will be recognized by the state of Illinois Wednesday during "Jim Thome Day." Lt. Governor Pat Quinn will present the honor to Thome, who recently passed Dave Kingman as the top career home run hitter among Illinois natives. It's a special moment Thome accepted with his usual humility.

"It's cool, really cool," said Thome on being given his own day. "Any time you have a day like that, it's an honor. It's definitely something you cherish."

Quotable: Guillen provided a very interesting take on A.J. Pierzynski's rise to cult hero status among White Sox faithful, following the 2005 postseason and Saturday's brawl.

"The fans are crazy. You get a standing ovation to get your [rear end] kicked and because you strike out," Guillen added. "God bless White Sox fans. Get punched in the face and you are a hero. I've never seen that before. Good for him. He's bigger than me now."

Third to first: Tadahito Iguchi was scratched from the lineup prior to the start of Tuesday's game with a sore right foot. Alex Cintron replaced Iguchi at second and hitting second in the lineup. ... Pierzynski entered Tuesday leading all Major League catchers with a .341 average. ... The White Sox and Twins are tied for the American League lead with two pinch-hit home runs apiece, and the White Sox lead all baseball with 36 home runs in May.

Down on the farm: Charlotte had the night off Monday, with the Knights getting a rest from their red-hot 32-11 start, producing a 10-game division lead. Josh Fields leads the offense with a .589 slugging percentage, .333 average and eight home runs, not to mention a .410 on-base percentage. Relievers Jeff Farnsworth (3-0, 1.19 ERA) and Javier Lopez (2-1, 0.76) also have 15 saves over 38 combined relief appearances. ... David Cook had three hits during Class A Winston-Salem's 11-2 loss to Myrtle Beach. ... Adam Ricks finished with two hits, including his second home run, in Class A Kannapolis' 6-1 loss at Greensboro. The Intimidators have an 8-35 record and are 22 games out of first place.

Up next: Facing the A's has been detrimental to Mark Buehrle's career record in the past, as he has a 2-8 lifetime mark against Oakland and a 4.14 ERA. Buehrle was 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA against Oakland in 2005, but tries for a reversal of fortune Wednesday against right-hander Dan Haren.

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