Notes: No 'C' for Konerko on jersey
Hurlers keeping pitch counts down; Thome hits 439th homer
CHICAGO -- Selecting Paul Konerko as the White Sox team captain was a matter of well-deserved respect and honor, as delivered by manager Ozzie Guillen. But apparently this particular form of recognition will be more verbal than tangible.
Konerko will not have the traditional "C" adorning his uniform, representing his new role for the White Sox. It was a decision also made by Guillen, stating Friday that the team doesn't need to "show it to everyone for them to realize who is the man."
The captain himself wholeheartedly supports Guillen's uniform decision.
"It's OK if he wants to say that, and I think it's a good idea it's not on the uniform," Konerko said prior to Saturday's contest with Minnesota. "It just doesn't look right in baseball, a guy wearing a 'C,' in my opinion.
"I didn't want to say it wasn't a big deal, because I'm flattered by it, but at the same time, I still think that a baseball team is about 25 guys and not about singling out one guy. But I didn't want to disrespect Ozzie or anyone else."
Guillen shared the captain's role as a player with Carlton Fisk and pointed out that neither of them wore the "C" on their respective uniforms. It's a tradition that Guillen wanted to start up again under his managerial regime, and thought of the team's natural leader for the first selection.
"Our ballclub knows we named him as a captain because he earned that spot," Guillen said.
When Konerko first heard about the new designation and balked a little at the idea back around SoxFest, he joked that there wouldn't be much need for him to discuss icing penalties or too many men on the ice calls with the umpires, as hockey captains sometimes will do. In fact, two months into his new title, Konerko has found his role as captain to be exactly what he expected.
Hardly anything as changed, aside from the reaction of his friends on the playing field.
"For about 10 or 15 minutes during the stretch, I get worn out by the rest of these guys," said Konerko with a laugh. "So, it's really an honor.
"No, I'm flattered by it. But it's one of those things where there are no other responsibilities or things that come along with it. Hopefully, it's a title you can keep while you are here and pass it on when you move, and hopefully, whatever Ozzie sees in a guy being a captain, I don't let him down in those areas. Otherwise, it's the same business as usual."
Pitching in: Don Cooper's pitching staff had allowed just two runs on 16 hits over its last four games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that total indicates their fewest runs given up over a four-game stretch since May 2-6, 1973. Holding Minnesota to two runs Saturday certainly didn't hurt this run of dominance.
But of greater significance for the long haul of this 2006 season is the unofficial pitch count limit Guillen has placed on his starting rotation. Freddy Garcia's 113-pitch effort Saturday was the new high-water mark of the season, followed by Jose Contreras' 110 pitches on April 12 in Detroit and Javier Vazquez checking in at 108 during his masterpiece against Kansas City on Wednesday.
Guillen's goal is to keep his starters in the 100 to 105 range through the early part of the season.
"When you look at the pitch count and in the seventh or eighth inning, they haven't even hit 100 yet, it's good for everyone," Guillen said. "Last year they played another month of baseball that they never played before.
"We tried to keep the pitch count low to keep them fresh all the way to the end. You go 115 or 110 every day, and in the end you will pay back. We don't want to overdo it."
Personal memorabilia: Friday's game-winning home run gave Jim Thome a total of 438 for his illustrious career, tying him with one-time Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson for 32nd place on the all-time list. Thome moved ahead of Dawson with his eighth-inning home run Saturday and currently sits three behind Dave Kingman, 10 behind Jeff Bagwell and 13 behind a group that includes Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield and Carl Yastrzemski.
In order to commemorate pulling even with these prolific sluggers, Thome has developed a habit of retrieving each significant home run. He got the ball back Friday night, following his long blast to the left-center-field bleachers.
"It means a lot when I tie a guy," Thome said. "Ultimately, those guys have done so much for the game. When your career is over, it's important, I know it is for me, to recognize those guys.
"Later on, it's nice to look back at what those guys have accomplished," Thome added.
Overdue respect: Guillen has often referred to Mark Buehrle as the most underrated pitcher in baseball. Following 88 career victories and a 3-0 start to the 2006 season, Buehrle's excellence doesn't appear to be much of a secret anymore.
"He's a smart pitcher, man," said Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter of Buehrle. "And the guy knows what he wants to do with a pitch three pitches ahead. He just kept us off-balance, going in and out.
"You try to slow him down. But I don't think that matters."
Buehrle spoke of Johan Santana as one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best, after Friday's victory. But if Santana is No. 1, where does the White Sox lefty with the better record currently rank?
"I'm a little better right now," Buehrle said. "Overall, the last couple of years, he's pretty dominating."
; Down on the farm: Pedro Lopez, coming off a 2005 season in which he hit only .222, had three hits Friday during Triple-A Charlotte's 6-3 victory over Toledo. Lopez is hitting .306 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Javier Lopez earned the victory in relief and has yet to allow an earned run in nine innings. ... Mark Quinn continued his hot start for Double-A Birmingham with his third home run Friday, but the Barons dropped a 4-3 decision at Jacksonville. ... Jay Marshall and Gary Bakker combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings as part of Class A Winston-Salem's 5-2 victory over Wilmington on Friday. Marshall (10 2/3 innings) and Bakker have not allowed an earned run over 17 combined innings.
Up next: Contreras tries to extend his regular-season winning streak to 11 straight games in the series finale Sunday against Carlos Silva and the Twins. Contreras is 10-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last 11 regular-season starts, dating back to Aug. 21, 2005.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.