Notes: Garland gaining confidence
White Sox righty throws 93 pitches in Minor League game
TUCSON, Ariz. -- When a pitcher wins 18 games in back-to-back seasons, working out of baseball's toughest division, there wouldn't seem to be much for him to prove during Spring Training -- especially in a start against Minor Leaguers.
But Monday's 93-pitch effort against a team of Arizona's Triple-A and Double-A players was something Jon Garland needed for a major confidence boost with the 2007 regular season fast approaching. Garland has been bothered for the second straight spring by a deep knot in his right shoulder, and while the laid-back hurler didn't let his worries show outwardly, there was some concern on his part.
Until Monday, that is.
"Today proved a lot to me, being able to go out there and throw  pitches," said Garland after completing his day's work in the 85-degree heat on Field No. 4 at the Kino Sports Complex. "I can go a complete game in 90 pitches in some instances.
"I'm not trying to guide the ball -- just let it go -- and that's what I did. [I'm] throwing all my pitches with complete conviction."
The results weren't exactly picture perfect for Garland, who allowed seven runs on 11 hits, including three home runs, over 5 1/3 innings. But Garland's velocity was solid, in the 89-to-90 mph range, topping out at 91, and in real-game situations, he might not have thrown certain pitches in certain counts that he did against the Minor Leaguers.
Garland's greatest sense of accomplishment came from feeling good while delivering all of his pitches. He pointed out throwing the ball felt more free and easy, and how between innings and then going back out to the mound, his shoulder didn't lock up on him. Garland described the difference between Monday and his last few starts as "night and day."
"It's more mental with me right now," Garland said. "When you're injured or you're hurt and something's not right, I don't care what you do, no matter what, it seems like it's with you all day long.
"You're always worried about it, always thinking about it. It actually just drains you because you're thinking about it so much. Being able to just go out there and let it go, it did a lot for me mentally."
If Garland makes the same sort of strides in his next appearance Saturday against Arizona, he should be regular-season ready to start the season's second game against Cleveland.
"As long as he's healthy, he just has to get ready for the season," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Garland. "I like everybody to have good outings. When people have good outings, it makes them feel good about themselves. But Garland is not here to make the ballclub. He's my No. 2 starter, and I just want him to be ready for the season."
Surprise, surprise: Adam Russell has gone from promising unknown to holding a firm spot on the roster bubble thanks to another strong start Monday in Surprise. The 6-foot-8 right-hander allowed one run on five hits over four innings against Kansas City's starting lineup, striking out four, and he even survived an Emil Brown comebacker off his right forearm.
After the effort, Guillen broke the somewhat surprising news of Russell's chances to break camp with the White Sox.
"Enjoy the ride because he's in the picture. He's in the mix now," said Guillen of Russell, who has impressed his manager with his mound presence and confidence, not to mention a fastball in the 95-to-97 mph range.
"The way he throws, you never know," Guillen added. "I like it. [General manager] Kenny [Williams] likes it, and everyone likes it here. That doesn't mean he's going to make the team, but he's going to have a chance."
With little opportunity left for Russell to stretch out as a starter, his best chance to earn a roster spot is via a relief role. Russell's goal was to make a name for himself in camp, and in the process, he has put himself in job contention.
"Just them showing that they think I can compete at this level and I can be successful at this level this late in the game really shows that they have an interest in me and that they are going to continue to give me a shot," Russell said. "It has been great."
Fifth alignment: Both John Danks and Gavin Floyd will pitch Friday at Hi Corbett Field against Colorado, although the White Sox have not named a starter. Charlie Haeger, who starts Tuesday against Oakland, will get the call again Sunday at home against Texas, with Floyd starting on March 27 in Tempe against the Angels and Danks starting on March 28 and facing the Diamondbacks.
Pitching coach Don Cooper said he wanted all three primary candidates to get one last chance to start in the final week, which is why Floyd and Danks were split up. Mark Buehrle will start a Minor League game on Sunday, while Garland pitches the final Cactus League contest against the Rockies on March 29 if the Rockies field a Major League team. Jose Contreras has been slated to work six or seven innings Thursday against Seattle.
Missing the mark: The six runs allowed over 3 2/3 innings against San Diego was not the only blemish on Sunday for Danks. The college basketball aficionado also had to deal with the departure of his beloved Texas Longhorns from the NCAA Tournament.
"I've had season tickets my whole life," said Danks of Texas, who he had beating USC but then losing in the round of 16 to North Carolina. "I didn't miss any home games when I was home this offseason."
Danks hoped a superstar such as Kevin Durant would carry Texas farther. But now he's left to see if his championship prediction of Kansas comes to fruition.
"I'm really iffy about that still," said Danks of the Jayhawks. "They seem to always flop in the tournament, so I don't know."
Around the horn: Scott Podsednik finished 3-for-5 with a walk and two stolen bases during Monday's Minor League game, while Jim Thome had two hits in five at-bats plus a free pass. ... Brian Anderson tied Monday's game against Kansas City with an eighth-inning home run. "He's a lot better right now than last year," said Guillen of his young center fielder. ... Guillen still does not expect Eduardo Perez (strained right calf) to return for a couple of more days. ... The next round of roster cuts is expected Wednesday morning, prior to a home contest with the Giants. ... Junior Spivey played center field in the Minor League contest. He played one game in center for Arizona in 2003.
Up next: Haeger will try to assert himself as the leader in the fifth-starter battle Tuesday in Phoenix against the A's. Buehrle will pitch in a Minor League game back in Tucson.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.