Uribe's back proves to be a pain
Shortstop to remain out of action until he speaks to Guillen
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen claims Juan Uribe is not in his personal doghouse.
Uribe doesn't believe he has done anything to cause anyone in the organization to be upset up with him.
Yet, when the starting lineup was posted prior to Friday's all-important series opener with Detroit, Alex Cintron was back at shortstop for the sixth straight game. And the lineup will stay that way for the foreseeable future until Uribe gives Guillen the personal OK to return, according to the White Sox manager.
"I'm not going to ask my trainer, I'm not going to ask [third-base coach] Joey Cora," said Guillen of Uribe, who has been stuck at a .246 average with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs for the past week. "He's got to come to me and say, 'I'm ready to play.' Then, we'll see what happens. We play him or we see what we're going to do.
"If I was hurt, I would hate for my manager to come out and say, 'How do you feel? How do you feel?' All of a sudden, the player feels like he's pushing me, he wants me on the field."
Talk on Uribe took up a good portion of Guillen's 14-minute pregame session with the media, basically because it seemed to be a situation starting to border on the problem Damaso Marte had with Guillen in 2005. Marte was bothered by persistent neck pain but did not come to Guillen and tell him he was unavailable.
The situation eventually escalated to Marte being sent home before a Sunday afternoon game after he arrived late for treatment, and the talented left-hander was traded during the offseason for Rob Mackowiak. The current issue with Uribe is nothing close to that particular problem, and it has nothing to do with Guillen's recent questioning of Uribe's consistent focus at shortstop defensively after a run of three errors in six games.
Uribe's absence primarily lies with his back stiffness. It also has a great deal to do with communication with the man in charge.
"He's our starting shortstop, but I don't want any players that are bigger than the game," Guillen said. "But don't think you're going to play, if you tell the trainers you're ready to play.
"No, I'm the boss. I've got to let my players know who the boss is here. If you don't talk to the boss, you're going to be on the bench.
"Don't come to me and say, 'My back hurts, my leg hurts' and that's it," Guillen added. "You've also got to let me know when you're ready."
Guillen reinforced the point that he doesn't want to put Uribe back in the lineup on someone else's recommendation, other than Uribe, only to hear later that Uribe was rushed back to action too quickly. Uribe took flips prior to Friday's game, launching tosses from hitting coach Greg Walker into the stands, as well as taking part in batting practice and infield work. He also spoke to general manager Kenny Williams in the White Sox dugout, a conversation dealing with when Uribe would return, according to the shortstop.
For the second straight day, Uribe said his back was improving greatly and mentioned Saturday as a new target date for return. But Uribe also understands that he won't be penciled in until he gives the word to Guillen.
"Yeah, when I'm ready, I'll go in there and talk to him," said Uribe, through translator Ozzie Guillen Jr., adding that his back still bothers him when making backhand plays on ground balls. "I'm confident when I'm 100 percent, I'm going to do the most I can to help the team win games."
Cintron came into Friday's contest with two hits in 16 at-bats during the current homestand, although he had hits in his first two at-bats Friday. But Uribe doesn't seem to have lost his starting job, at this point.
Then again, if Guillen doesn't hear directly from Uribe on his back's condition, he's prepared to wait quite a long time before using him in the lineup again.
"If he comes to me in Tucson [during Spring Training] and says he's ready to play, then that's when he will play," Guillen said. "Is it clearer than that? If Uribe doesn't come to me until the last game of the season, he isn't playing.
"I don't care if he's mad, I don't care if his feelings are hurt. I didn't come here to make friends. I came here to win. And that's the way we're going to do it.
"Like I said, he didn't do anything wrong," Guillen added. "I'm just trying to protect my back until he's ready to play."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.