SAN FRANCISCO -- If Jermaine Dye ever forgets that he is now 34 years of age and in the midst of his 13th Major League season, he only needs to make a play such as Saturday night's fifth-inning spectacular diving catch to jog his memory.
"Oh, yeah. You feel a lot of things waking up in the morning," Dye said with a smile. "But you still come to the ballpark every day ready to play."
Dye's defensive performance in right field from Saturday night once again has become the norm rather than the exception during the 2008 season. He actually might not be making full-out dives to take away extra-base hits on a daily basis, but his showing with the glove has been much more consistent.
Getting healthy has been one major reason for the former Gold Glover's return to that standard, after battling through nagging knee and hamstring injuries in 2007. Ozzie Guillen also believes Dye is in better shape, conditioning that's paying off for him and the team in general.
Defense has become more of a key than ever for the White Sox, especially behind a starting rotation with Javier Vazquez standing as the lone true strikeout pitcher.
"I always say, people have to play good defense because of our pitching staff," Guillen said. "If you play poor defense, your bullpen is going to be bad because sooner or later, they're going to be overworked, they're going to be tired."
When asked about his defensive improvement, Dye admitted that feeling good did make somewhat of a difference. But with age also comes wisdom, and Dye has learned to compensate for his perceived shortcomings as he has grown older.
"You do get older and lose a step," said Dye, who won a Gold Glove with the Royals in 2000 and carried a .296 average into Sunday's series finale with the Giants. "You have to realize your body is not the same.
"Reaction time is not as good as it used to be. So, it's about getting good jumps and trying to position myself to what my weaknesses are. I'm trying to move over a little bit and make it that much easier to get to those balls. But I always pride myself on my defense."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.