ANAHEIM -- As each reporter approached pitching coach Don Cooper in the White Sox clubhouse prior to Thursday afternoon's workout at Anaheim Stadium, the teasing grew stronger from a few feet away.

"Tell them how you fixed El Duque, Coop," the voice bellowed, with hearty laughter trailing after the comment. "And don't forget Jose Contreras."

The voice, of course, belonged to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who has as much fun needling Cooper as he did building one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. The questions for Cooper stemmed from Thursday's edition of Newsday, listing the former Yankees hurler as the top candidate to replace retired pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.

For an individual who was born and raised in New York and is a fan of all the pro teams in that geographical area, the inclusion on this list was very flattering. But the flattery is pretty much where it ends for Cooper, who has been with the White Sox organization since 1988.

"Honestly, a New York paper started a story, imagine that, and Chicago papers picked that up, imagine that?" said Cooper with a smile in regard to his rumored move to New York. "Now, it's out there, and I'm getting a lot of [garbage] about it.

"But 18 or 19 years of Sox service says a lot. You should build up some equity. My focus is on the little thing we have going on here called the ALCS, and winning the ALCS. I want to win in the worst way. I'm having a blast right now. It's so much fun, such an opportunity."

Cooper has served as the pitching coach for four White Sox affiliates, starting in 1988 with South Bend of the Midwest League. He also was the organization's Minor League pitching coordinator and roving Minor League instructor, before taking over the reins at the Major League level in 2002.

With five viable starters, six if you count Brandon McCarthy, the team finished tied for the American League's top spot with Cleveland with a 3.61 ERA. The White Sox also finished third in saves with 51.

But a more telling fact concerning Cooper's future is a story he told about his father, Wes, who worked 20 years as a milkman and then 20 more as a mechanic. Cooper wants to have the same sort of longevity in one job as his personal hero.

"I have no desire to leave, and you know what, I'm not leaving," said Cooper, who answered, "Heck no," when asked if the Yankees had asked permission to talk with him. "That's the stuff that should be out of The Star or The Enquirer.

"My loyalty on everything that I do, every day since I've been with the White Sox, is that I'm representing the Sox, during the season and during the offseason. I'm Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach."

Kid clutch: Joe Crede has taken a great deal of criticism over the past two years for not living up to his limitless potential. The third baseman hit .252 in 2005, following a .239 effort in 2004.

But with the game on the line in the ninth inning, there might not be anybody in baseball who is more valuable at the plate than Crede. It's certainly true amongst White Sox hitters. Crede's walk-off double in Game 2 of the ALCS followed up his walk-off home run against the Indians on Sept. 20, keeping the White Sox safely ahead of their fast-closing American League Central challengers.

Crede had five walk-off hits in 2004, including two game-ending home runs. He also hit a walk-off grand slam on Aug. 27, 2002, against Toronto. The opposing pitcher that night just happened to be Kelvim Escobar, who was on the mound for the Angels on Wednesday.

"I can't explain it," said Crede of his ninth-inning magic. "I just don't know. Maybe my concentration goes up. If I knew, I would take that approach into every at-bat."

Hitting coach Greg Walker agreed with Crede's increased concentration assessment. He also pointed out that Crede is an exceptional breaking ball hitter and seems to have nerves of steel in tight situations.

"We tease him all the time that he has the league set up," said Walker. "They don't think he can hit and we know he can. He seems to have a calmness and different level of concentration during that period of time.

"It's frustrating because we see results in those situations and say, 'I wish he would do that all the time.' But right now, he's playing really well when it counts. I'm proud for him and for us."

Slight ding: Aaron Rowand's sore left shoulder, which he injured while being thrown out at the plate Wednesday night, still was giving him problems on Thursday. But it didn't stop Rowand from going through a full workout, and it certainly won't stop him from playing Friday.

"I'm sore, but that's nothing new," said Rowand with a smile.

Guilt-free actions: Although Josh Paul has taken his fair share of flack for rolling the ball back to the mound instead of tagging out A.J. Pierzynski to end the ninth inning Wednesday, first baseman Paul Konerko said his former teammate didn't deserve any of the blame for the White Sox comeback.

"I don't think anyone can fault Josh Paul," Konerko said. "You can't blame him. He did what one million catchers out of one million would have done. I just think he was as innocent on that play as the guy standing in right field. Period. That's all I can say about that."

When asked if he could empathize with Paul, as a former catcher himself, Konerko traveled down a comical avenue for the response.

"If I was catching, the ball would have been at the backstop," Konerko said.

Featured stooges: Pierzynski, Rowand and Crede have earned the nicknames of Moe, Larry and Curly, i.e. The Three Stooges, from Walker in reference to their goofy camaraderie. The trio was featured on the front page of Thursday's Orange County Register, celebrating Crede's walk-off shot, and planned to get a color reprint and sign it for Walker.

But Konerko delivered the deadpan reaction of the season, after looking at the picture in the paper. He told his friends and Guillen that the picture looked like one of those old shots of the cavemen, reacting in joy to the moment when they just discovered fire.