Notes: Offense more focused in playoffs
Hitters not giving away many at-bats during postseason
ANAHEIM -- Even before the first pitch was thrown during the Division Series between Boston and the White Sox, hitting coach Greg Walker knew his Chicago offense was ready to break loose.
"The first workout we had was the best round of batting practice we possibly could have produced," Walker said. "You could see it in their eyes. They were ready to win."
Walker wasn't quite as effusive in his praise in regard to the White Sox workout prior to the start of the American League Championship Series, but he knew once again that his often sporadic crew was on target and ready to fire. After a couple of rough days in Chicago, the White Sox offense has been its steady if not spectacular self.
A major problem for White Sox hitters, according to Walker, surprisingly stems from the team's tremendous pitching staff. Walker believes the offense grew a little lackadaisical at times during the regular season, relying on the pitching to keep the games close. But their approach, in regard to whatever approach you can have for free swingers such as Aaron Rowand, Joe Crede and Juan Uribe, has exhibited much more focus during the postseason.
"Our lack of discipline hurt us, and we beat ourselves at times," said Walker. "But we have given away very few at-bats during the playoffs, and when we do that, we are really good."
When asked earlier in the week if the White Sox could use a blowout win or two to take the pressure off the pitchers, Walker laughed and pointed out that he didn't think his team would know what to do with a big lead. As their motto goes, don't score any more runs than they need to win.
A reliance on the home run still exists, to some extent, even in small ball times, with every postseason win but Wednesday's controversial finish fueled by a key long ball or two. But patience has been a virtue for the White Sox.
They made both John Lackey and Ervin Santana work during the first inning of the first two games in Anaheim, driving Santana's pitch count near 40 on Saturday. That high total not only helps the White Sox offense but hurts the opposing pitching staff's depth.
"We just want to be solid at the plate," said White Sox designated hitter Carl Everett. "Getting our fundamentals down, being patient and getting good pitches to hit."
Health concerns: Pitching coach Don Cooper characterized a minor physical problem faced by Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez over the past few days as tightness in his pitching shoulder. But Hernandez played long toss on Sunday and told Cooper that he felt fine.
"He told me he's ready to go," said Cooper, who added the team would still probably stay away from Hernandez on Sunday, if at all possible.
"We've already seen what his presence means," said Cooper, referring to Hernandez's great relief work in Boston and his positive effect on Jose Contreras.
The sound and the glory: It was general manager Ken Williams holding court with the media prior to Friday and Saturday's contest at Angel Stadium. On Sunday, it was manager Ozzie Guillen's turn, speaking for 45 minutes in an impromptu session following his scheduled press conference.
Guillen hit on topics ranging from his disinterest in politics, because he speaks his mind too easily to be part of that particular field, to a strong endorsement of third base coach Joey Cora as a future managerial candidate.
"He's better prepared than myself to be in that position," said Guillen of Cora. "I just have instincts, but Joey will be a real good manager. And he learned from me."
The last piece of commentary was followed by Guillen's trademark mischievous smile. Guillen added that he spoke Sunday morning to his mother and father, who live near Caracas in Venezuela, and that they were proud of him and praying for a victory Sunday. His mother made it clear that the White Sox success is being felt in more than just the United States.
"All talk in Venezuela is me and the White Sox," Guillen said. "She told me that they can't wait until I get there, and they hope I bring the [World Series] trophy to the country."
And of course, it wouldn't be a Guillen press conference of late if he didn't make reference to walking away from his managerial job if the White Sox won it all. He laughed when one reporter mentioned even chairman Jerry Reinsdorf doubted the sincerity of Guillen's comments in that regard, to which Guillen responded, "Jerry is wrong then."
"If we get the title and I say I did what I was supposed to do, I will ask myself if I want to do this again," Guillen added. "That's my point. I don't want to leave. I just have the choice. That's it.
"I can leave with my head up or deal with it longer. But don't get me wrong. I love it. I love the spotlight."
Quiet, pitchers working: Paul Konerko has heard the criticism of the Angels' hitters after the first four games of the ALCS, especially the first two played in Anaheim. But he believes the White Sox pitchers are more at fault for the Angels' struggles then the Angels themselves.
"The hardest thing to do for a hitter is to tip your hat to the pitcher," Konerko said. "You'd like to blame yourself and you'd like to come up with a reason that you did something wrong that may have made the difference.
"But sometimes when the guys are throwing well and doing what they should be doing, it's tough to swallow but that's the way it is. They have great hitters over there, and I'm hoping they can keep them quiet one more day."
Speaking of the sounds of silence, Konerko has been consistently quiet in regard to his future with the White Sox and potential high-value free agent deal. Konerko was asked after Saturday's victory how he avoids that topic from weighing on his mind.
"I just don't answer questions about it," said Konerko, drawing a laugh from the assembled media members around his cubicle.
Still the same: The White Sox fielded the same lineup for the eighth straight game in the playoffs, an oddity for a manager such as Guillen, who made liberal use of his bench all season.
"I believe in the players," Guillen said. "I believe in those guys who got me here, and I'd like to stick with the same people."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.