Notes: Thome's on a tear
Veterans help Haeger; Guillen offers All-Star coaching spots
CHICAGO -- If more players followed Jim Thome's approach to success, more players might move a little closer to Thome's career-long high level of positive results.
Tuesday's victory over the Angels pretty much marked one-fifth of the season complete, a 32-game stretch in which Thome launched an American League-best 14 home runs. Performing at that same pace throughout the course of the 2006 season, Thome would finish with a career-high and AL-record 70 home runs.
Even reducing that incredible goal to a more realistic target of 50, breaking Albert Belle's team record of 49, or even 40 home runs would be an exceptional comeback effort for Thome, who really departed the limelight for one injury-plagued season in 2005. But with that possibility for great personal success laid out in front of him, Thome refused to put his own accomplishments above the team focus.
"It would be great, but I want to win," said Thome, who entered Wednesday's action with a home run in every 7.6 at-bats, trailing only the Cardinals' Albert Pujols (6.6) and the Yankees' Jason Giambi (7.5).
"That's a personal goal, and the main personal goal you should have is to win," Thome added. "All the other things will take care of themselves."
Thome's great start for the White Sox has been written and talked about pretty much on a daily basis, but looking at his raw numbers and rankings make his effort all the more impressive once again. Along with his home run leadership, Thome tops AL hitters in RBIs with 36 and with his .764 slugging percentage.
His 33 runs scored and .471 on-base percentage rank him second and his 28 walks leave Thome tied for second. A good portion of Thome's success can be attributed to his intense work ethic, going through anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes of pregame work.
But ask Thome for the most important 2006 statistics in his mind, and they would be the White Sox record of 23-9 and their Major League-best .719 winning percentage.
"The main thing for me is to continue the work and stay focused," Thome said. "The main priority is to stay healthy and keep winning."
Fitting in: Coming up to the White Sox for his Major League debut Wednesday was not exactly like entering a foreign environment for Charlie Haeger. After all, he spent his first big-league Spring Training with the team this past February and March.
But part of the veterans' collective responsibilities during the contest was to keep Haeger under control as he battled through the nerves of his first start.
"There's only so much you can do, as far as talking to him during a game and stuff like that," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede of helping Haeger. "Pitchers are different. Some pitchers don't like to be talked to during a game and you respect that and let them do their thing and stay away, so you don't upset their routine.
"The more we get to know him, the more we will understand him and the more familiar he will be on the team," Crede added.
Manager Ozzie Guillen made his words of encouragement very simple and direct.
"I went to my office and said, 'Do whatever you were doing down there. Don't change,'" Guillen said of his pregame talk with Haeger. "To me, I treat everybody the same. I'm not going to say, 'You have to do this, you have to do that.' He knows what he has to do.
"In your first big-league game, you'll be excited, you'll be pumped up. After your first couple innings, you should be all right. It's another game. We'll treat him like he's been here before."
Day and night: Remember when Freddy Garcia was the king of afternoon baseball? His success seems to have moved later into the evening. Garcia improved to 3-0 in four night starts this season with Tuesday's victory, after posting a 20-28 record and 4.64 ERA in his previous three seasons at night. Garcia is 63-49 at night lifetime, compared to 41-14 during the day.
Third to first: Jose Contreras was moving around better in the White Sox clubhouse prior to Wednesday's game and White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider said the staff ace was improving. Contreras will receive an epidural injection Thursday to help relieve the remaining pain. ... Guillen reiterated Wednesday that he has invited Toronto manager John Gibbons and Cleveland manager Eric Wedge to be his All-Star coaches. ... The crowd was briefly entertained when A.J. Pierzynski struck out in the second inning Wednesday, but catcher Jose Molina dropped the third strike. On this occasion, Molina threw out Pierzynski at first base to end the second. ... The May 18 game with the Devil Rays will be broadcasted by ESPN2 to most of the country. Comcast SportsNet will televise the game locally.
Down on the farm: Josh Fields had two hits, including his 10th double, and Sean Tracey struck out six over 6 1/3 innings, but the first-place Knights fell by a 5-2 margin in 11 innings during International League action Tuesday night. Triple-A Charlotte has a 24-7 record and a six-game lead in the division. ... Lucas Harrell struck out six and allowed only one hit over seven innings, as Class A Winston-Salem shut down Salem, 3-0. ... Daron Roberts had two hits and his 10th RBI during Class A Kannapolis' 3-2 victory over Columbus.
Up next: With three straight no-decisions behind him, Jon Garland makes his seventh start of 2006 in Thursday's series finale against the Angels. The right-hander is 2-6 with a 5.07 ERA lifetime when facing the Angels and allowed five runs on five hits over seven innings during his lone start this season on April 30 at Angel Stadium.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.