Williams, White Sox liking their chances

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Williams, White Sox liking their chances

Despite dropping four straight series, the White Sox entered Monday's BP Crosstown Cup matchup with the Cubs in first place, a game and a half ahead of Cleveland and three games ahead of Detroit. It's been a good-news-bad-news run in the last dozen games, plenty of which the Sox have dropped by only a run or two.

"We wasted games over the last week, week and a half," general manager Kenny Williams said prior to Monday's game. "And it's unfortunate because it came at a time we could have created distance between ourselves and the clubs behind us. It is what it is and it's part of the grind and you're going to have these stretches. But that's the bad news, that we had an opportunity to stretch out our lead. The good news is we've been in every game, we've been leading some of those games. We're still in position and still feel like we're a good club that can continue to grind it out and contend for the season."

Taking a step back, that the bad news is the White Sox didn't stretch their lead atop the AL Central isn't the worst news ever. Three months ago, no prognosticator expected the White Sox to be in first place, and many didn't even think they'd be in contention at this point. By the All-Star break, they'd look to sell.

Instead, the Sox are looking for ways to improve the club as late June approaches. And while Williams reiterated he does have restrictions on who he can add, the fact that the Sox are in a position to add players is probably shocking enough to those who pegged the Sox for dead last in the division.

"It's nice we're in it and we're competing. It's still kind of early, but it's starting to get to that midpoint," said first baseman Paul Konerko. "You just have to try to mentally prepare for that and don't kill yourself every night if we don't win, but at the same time you realize how important every game is, too. So balancing those things out is the hard part. We didn't play terrible on that road trip, but obviously it wasn't a good road trip wins and losses, but we just have shake that off and come out tonight strong."

The six-game road trip saw plenty of good pitching, be it from Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy or the bullpen. But the struggles of Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber continued, although Wiliams isn't planning on ditching either pitcher any time soon.

"We keep waiting and we see little things that are signs of progress," Williams explained. "Then you'll see the little blip on the radar here and there. We look at it optimistically. The great thing is we've been able to bring some of these young guys, whether it be in the bullpen, or in the case of Quintana, into the mix and he's performed great. We continue to allow ourselves the best opportunity by putting the quality starters out there."

Quintana's outstanding job filling in for John Danks hasn't gone unnoticed. Manager Robin Ventura said Monday the 23-year-old lefty "isn't going anywhere" and Williams sees Quintana's success keeping up long-term.

"Take a look at the teams he's pitched against," Williams said. "Maybe you could still guess about it if he hadn't pitched against some of the teams he has. But he's been on the stage, and he's had to produce, and he's come through. I don't see why there's any reason he can't keep this up."

The Sox don't quite know when they'll get Danks back, as the lefty underwent an MRI Monday, the results of which weren't known before the game. Williams expects Danks make an impact when he re-joins the rotation, but he also knows he and the coaching staff need to be calculated in their roster and role decisions when Danks comes back.

"No matter if they were here or not, we're still going to look at potential places where we can improve the club," Williams said, also referring to injured third baseman Brent Morel. "But you've got to be careful with that, because once guys start to believe in themselves as a unityou've got to be careful to disrupt that chemistry.

"Right now, it's pretty good."

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle might need time to process everything that took place Saturday afternoon when he was surrounded by friends, family, teammates and fans, showered with gifts and overwhelmed by emotion.

The White Sox officially retired the number of one of the most popular players in team history in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. A banner covering Buehrle’s No. 56 was unfurled during an afternoon ceremony that makes the left-hander one of 11 players in club history whose number has been retired. Surrounded by fellow honoree Frank Thomas among many others, the always humble Buehrle -- who won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox -- said afterward he’s not sure he belongs in the club.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Buehrle said. “It’s going to take time. I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in and realize there it is.

“Amazing feeling. Can’t really put it into words how you feel. I wasn’t actually as nervous as I thought I would be once I was up there. But obviously glad it’s over with and it’s a special day.”

Buehrle’s list of dignitaries included Thomas, managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Cliff Polite, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, John Danks and hitting coach Greg Walker.

White Sox play by play man Hawk Harrelson emceed a ceremony that lasted 30 minutes. Included were speeches by Thomas and White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper as well as an unveiling of a series of gifts. The team presented Buehrle with a new truck, a baseball collage put together by Ron Kittle, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle -- much to the enjoyment of his duck hunting club seated on the 400 level -- as well as the flip-through-the-legs ball from Opening Day 2010. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also spoke during the ceremony, dropping in a series of one-liners.

“I’ve never seen him upset,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen him overreact. Day in and day out he was the same guy. That’s what makes him so special. His teammates loved him.

“Buehrle did something: outsmart people. People don’t have stuff like him they think I’m smart, I can do this and fake it. Buehrle just grabbed the ball and threw it.

“To survive for so many years and have your number retired, there’s not that many people up there.

“It’s amazing with the stuff he had. I’ve seen a lot of better pitchers with better stuff. You don’t see too many guys with the same heart.”

Buehrle said Friday that he anticipated he’d be an emotional wreck for the event. The man beloved by the public isn’t much for public speaking. Throw in all of his friends and family present and Buehrle just hoped to get through his own speech. He said the sight of seeing his number unfurled almost put him over the edge.

“Emotions and trying to breathe deep and don’t start crying, tearing up,” Buehrle said. “I was trying to hold my emotions together. But just looking up there and seeing that. I can’t put it into words.”

When it was his turn to say the words, Buehrle spoke the way he pitched: tidy and efficient. Wearing a suit and sunglasses in case he teared up, Buehrle spoke with his wife and children at his side. Aside from his family, Buehrle said he avoided naming names during the 4-minute, 19-second speech because he had too many people to thank for the journey from 38th round draft pick to all-time great.

Buehrle said he wouldn’t be able to pick out his favorite part until he watches the ceremony again later.

“When I watch it back in a couple hours and realize what happened and what really went on,” Buehrle said. “It’s kind of hard to hear out there, but it’s just everything. I had Frank Thomas and Jim Thome behind me. They’re here for my day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

James Shields makes history in loss to Athletics

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USA TODAY

James Shields makes history in loss to Athletics

James Shields put his name in the record books twice on Mark Buehrle Day. 

Making his second start since returning from injury, Shields became the 81st pitcher in major-league history to record 2,000 career strikeouts. He then became the first pitcher in major-league history to allow three players to hit their first career home runs in a single game. 

Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman and Franklin Barreto each tagged the White Sox pitcher for their first career blast, resulting in the Athletics jumping out to a 6-0 lead. They held on to a sizable lead all game, scoring a 10-2 victory in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

Shields' day was done after three innings, allowing seven hits, six earned runs and striking out five. He also walked three batters. 

The White Sox offense picked up two unearned runs in the third and fourth inning, thanks to infield errors. Melky Cabrera singled home Yolmer Sanchez, who reached on a Barreto miscue. The following inning, Tim Anderson roped a sac fly to center, plating Todd Frazier. 

Frazier later picked up his first ejection in 855 MLB games for arguing after umpires called and reviewed that Jose Abreu had slid off the bag while stretching for the third baseman's errant throw. For the second time in as many games, Rick Renteria followed suit. He slammed his hat while vehemently disagreeing with two umps in the middle of the infield. 

Olson homered again - this time off Jake Petricka - in the seventh to extend the A's lead to eight runs. 

Alen Hanson, who improved his batting average to .333 in a White Sox uniform, was the only player with multiple hits in the Sox order. He went 2-for-4 with two singles. Frazier recorded the team's lone extra-base hit when he delivered a double in the fourth. 

For the Sox, it was another case of starter struggles. Saturday marked the 25th time in 31 games that a South Side starter has failed to make a quality start.