Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

146317.jpg

Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2010
11:04 AM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Mark Buehrle may not have thrown another perfect game, but it was certainly a perfect day Monday for the White Sox. So with the first game of 2010 in the books, here are 9 innings of observations from their 6-0 victory over the Indians:

1. MARK BUEHRLE = LEGEND

I joked with Mark before the game that he was making another ho-hum Opening Day start. Do something original for once! I said.

What do you want me to do? he replied. Skip it?

No, thats something Carlos Zambrano should have done.

Mark? He just went out and threw another Buehrle classic. Sure, he held the Indians to three measly singles over seven innings. But thats become ordinary for 56. Hes done it before. Oh, like the last time he won on Opening Day. It was also at home. Also against the Indians. Also a shutout. The year was 2005.

Omen?

So what does a pitcher do when hes already got a no-hitter, a perfect game, a major league home run, and a World Series ring?

You make a play that defies the laws of physics and causes Hawk Harrelson to pierce the eardrums of every CSN viewer from Alsip to Alabama.

MERCY!!!!

Buehrles no-look scoop through his legs into the barehand of Paul Konerko will go down as one of the best plays ever made by a pitcher.

Maybe the best.

You see the play happening, you run over there saying, Do I slide and spin, or do I grab the ball and throw it? Buehrle said. I think every thought went through my head. It just happened the way it did.

Yes, it did.

2. FRANK AND KENNY: LET THE HEALING BEGIN

Driving to the ballpark on Monday, I was a little nervous about having Frank Thomas and Kenny Williams sit side-by-side one another on our pregame show. In 2006, they both had an explosive falling out that fractured their relationship to the point where I thought they would never speak again.

But in a matter of hours, the two were going to be about an inch away from each other, live on television, and I was either going to be the host of this reunion or the referee.

What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, no whistle was needed. Or bandages.

As it turned out, they both wanted to put the whole thing behind them.

I began the segment by asking, Are you guys good?

Were fine, Thomas said.

Kenny went a little further.

We had our say. We certainly werent shy about expressing something at a given time. But prior to that we had a great relationship. We had that bump in the road, and are going on to the next phase in life.

And with that, Thomas sucker-punched Williams right in the kidney.

I kid.

3. PRESIDENT OBAMA REPRESENTS!

After the Sox First Fan was roundly booed last summer for wearing a White Sox jacket at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, youd think that he would learn his lesson.

Uh-uh.

There was Obama on Monday at the Washington Nationals home opener, taking the mound in a shiny new Nationals jacket, only to rub it in all of their faces by donning his scrubby old Sox cap for all eyes to see (including several White Sox players who watched with glee on TV before the game in the clubhouse).

Our President has some guts. No arm. But guts.

4. THEY DON'T PLAY BASEBALL IN CANADA.

Speaking of bad arms, we bring you the Chicago Blackhawk Olympians.

Gulp.

Who taught them how to throw a baseball? Charlie Brown?

Canadian Duncan Keith might be one of the best defensemen in the NHL, but theres no defense for his throw to John Danks which was about 10 feet short and another 8 feet wide.

Brent Seabrooks self-described fastball went straight into the dirt, but he did deliver a great line to Blackhawks TV afterwards:

Its hard throwing with a gold medal around your neck.

The third Canadian was Jonathan Toews, who like the captain that he is, threw the best pitch, which was still about 4 feet above the strike zone, but it at least hit Danks glove.

The one American, Patrick Kane, did the same, but he almost threw the ball to the backstop.

These are professional athletes, right?

5. CARLOS QUENTIN IS ON PACE TO GET HIT BY 236 PITCHES IN 2010

The White Sox better have a lot of ice in the trainers room. And their fingers crossed.

6. FRANK THOMAS A.K.A. "ROOKIE"

Monday was the Big Hurts debut on White Sox Pre and Post-Game Live. Frank will join Bill Melton and I for all Sox home games on Comcast SportsNet this season. Thomas obviously has a ton of baseball knowledge, which hell bring to the set. But Im just as interested in bringing out his sense of humor, and the off-camera daggers he and Melton can throw at each other.

It was on full display in the green room while they watched the game together. Its only a matter of time before it unfolds on the set.

Plus, Frank is letting me call him rookie. That is until he sits on me.

7. ALEX RIOS, HELLO AGAIN...HELLO

Not to take anything away from Buehrles gem, but what Alex Rios did on Opening Day may turn out to matter most for the Sox in the long run.

After his disastrous Sox debut last season (batting .199 in 41 games), Rios came to spring training with a clear mind and corrected swing.

If there was one guy on the Sox team who really needed a big game, it was him. And he delivered with that massive solo homer to center in the 8th, and that game-ending diving catch in the 9th.

Thomas played with Rios in Toronto in 2007, and was blown away by his five-tool talent. Before the game he said that Rios was his Comeback Player of the Year.

He could be right.

8. I NEED A HAIRCUT

Hows that for baseball analysis!

9. JERMAINE DYE: MISSING IN ACTION

Yeah, his game took a sharp nosedive in the second half of last season, but are you serious? Jermaine Dye sitting on the couch on Opening Day??

Teams have expressed interest. The Cubs, Brewers, and Nationals to name a few. But Dye has a lot of pride (as well as a ton of money in the bank), and hes not going to play for what he perceives is under his market value.

Hell probably stay in shape for the first couple months in case somebody gets hurt somewhere. But the longer that goes on without a phone call, the tougher it is to keep up training by yourself.

Big Frank learned this while sitting on the sidelines last season. By June, he knew he was done.

My prediction: if Dye doesnt sign somewhere soon, hell miss the 2010 season entirely. Then come the fall, hell realize how much he misses the game, hell swallow his pride, and sign a minor league contract with someone for next season.

In the end, Jermaine is a baseball player. Its what he does. Its what he knows. To just walk away cold turkey? Dont see it happening.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

Alex Avila is ready to play baseball again after being out of action for almost two months with a right hamstring injury.

The White Sox catcher was activated from the disabled list on Friday and started behind the plate and bat eighth during Saturday's contest against the Seattle Mariners.

“I feel like it’s opening day for me right now,” Avila said.

The 29-year-old had been on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury since July 6. He thought his return was going to be a lot sooner, but a setback negated that during his first rehab assignment on July 20.

Avila said that he “probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” so this time around, he was being extra cautious.

“It definitely took longer than I expected it to,” Avila said of his recovery process. “But at the same time I couldn’t jeopardize coming back and reinjuring it again. At this point in the season I feel like I’m definitely ready to play and can get through the last few games.

“It’s been a rough few weeks, personally, but sometimes there’s things you can’t control and you gotta make sure you let mother nature take its course and play that out. It can be difficult when you’re on the DL because at times you feel a little disconnected. Stuff like that. But you have to really worry about yourself and getting healthy, then once you are you can get back to being a team player.”

Avila is .236/.362/.358 on the season with three homers and six RBI in 41 games played.

“It’s been awhile. I know it’s been tough on him to be able to do that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He has worked hard to get back where he was. Even when he came back, to have an injury happen fairly quickly. He was swinging it great. That’s the part of baseball that’s tough. You get back, and something like that happens. You don’t really plan for it. It’s nice to have him back.”

To make room for Avila, the White Sox traded catcher Dioner Navarro to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 25-year-old pitcher Colton Turner, who the White Sox are hoping can continue to build on his strong season.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

For now, Avila and Omar Narvaez will split the catching duties.

“He’s a very mild-mannered kid. He works hard,” Avila said of Narvaez. “He’s been asking all the right questions as far as how to call games and what to do in certain situations and we’ve talked a little bit. At the same time it’s about him gaining that experience and having those experiences on the field is one thing I’ve told catchers that I’ve come across.

“Coaches and veteran players can say all the right things you need to hear (and) can give you all the advice you want. But it comes down to getting that playing experience on the field with the pitcher, with guys on base, in the sixth inning with two outs and a guy on third. All those experiences mean so much more than any advice I can give him.

“One thing I can do and what coaches can help him do is have an idea going into it. But he’s got a good head on his shoulders and up to this point he’s shown that up here hasn’t overwhelmed him and he’s been playing well."

Narvaez is .325/.426/.375 in 14 games with the White Sox this season.

Miguel Gonzalez is also getting closer to a return.

“I know (Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer) will be in there at some point to get their starts,” Ventura said. “How we do it when they’re in there, we haven’t really nailed that down. It’s an open dialogue at this point of being able to figure out the right spot to get them back in there.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”