Notes: Walker proud of former Sox
Hitting coach enjoying success of past pupils
BOSTON -- Greg Walker doesn't view one-time White Sox contributors, who have since moved on to other teams, as the enemy. Instead, the team's affable hitting coach since May 2003, looks at these former co-workers, or even pupils, as brothers who simply have relocated.
So, Walker certainly seems happy to see the members of his extended family having highly productive individual performances during the 2007 campaign. Magglio Ordonez leads the way among this group, entering this week's five-game set between Detroit and the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field with the American League's top batting average at .360.
Ordonez, who signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Tigers prior to the start of the 2005 season, also has put up 37 doubles, 80 RBIs and a .425 average with runners in scoring position. Although statistics at this exceptional level never can be assumed, nothing Ordonez does with the bat seems to surprise Walker.
"Everyone always asks me what I did to help Magglio," said Walker with a wry smile. "Nothing. I patted him on the back and told him how good he was. When I got here, Magglio was a completely made, done, self-made hitter.
"The only thing that stopped Magglio for a little while was his knee. That's the only thing that slowed him down. Obviously, having the year he's having this year, you don't normally expect that out of anybody. That's an MVP sort of year. But Magglio is a talent, just unbelievable."
While Magglio tops the charts for Detroit's defending American League champs, Philadelphia's Aaron Rowand, Houston's Carlos Lee and Willie Harris in Atlanta are coming through with their own .300 campaigns.
Harris broke out of a slump in a major way on Saturday, with six hits and six RBIs. Walker worked with Harris during his highest point on offense at Triple-A Charlotte, and through his struggles with the White Sox, and believes the fellow Georgia native can make things happen at the top of the order when he has his swagger and confidence going.
Walker doesn't exactly take credit for the success of these transplanted Chicagoans, with Ordonez, Lee and Rowand all reaching All-Star status this season. But he does take pride in their ongoing accomplishments.
"Oh, sure. I love them and we have a close relationship," Walker said. "I hope they make their money, and I hope their family is doing well. I keep in touch with them and they keep in touch with me.
"When you spend as much time together as we do, we are family. Just because they go to another uniform, unless you are playing against them that day or they are in your division, you don't pull against them. You pull for them."
News from the mound: Charlie Haeger appeared to be a near certainty to start for the White Sox during Tuesday's doubleheader against the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field, before the knuckleballer worked 3 1/3 innings and threw 61 pitches during Sunday's 8-5 defeat at Fenway Park. Guillen ruled out Haeger as an option after the game.
"Kenny just sent a message, and we will find out tomorrow what's going on," said Guillen of the information coming in from general manager Ken Williams, who was not present in Boston for Sunday's series finale.
Judging by experience, Minor League effectiveness and the present rotation spot, Gavin Floyd should get the call Tuesday. Floyd last pitched for Triple-A Charlotte on July 18 against Buffalo, a game in which he fanned 10 over eight innings, and would be off his regular schedule by one day.
Floyd worked the second game of a doubleheader against Minnesota before the All-Star break, allowing six runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, including four home runs, during a 12-0 loss. The right-hander started the night game of that split, but Guillen will use him in the afternoon game against Detroit.
The bullpen was thrown out of whack when Guillen started Jon Garland in the day game against the Twins, and Garland lasted only 3 1/3 innings during a 20-14 loss. Guillen used three relievers in support of Floyd.
"Last time, it was a rookie mistake by me," said Guillen, who mentioned that a roster move could be made in between games, if necessary. "We thought Garland was going to be OK. All of a sudden, he wasn't, and we really struggled for a couple of days."
Mark Buehrle, who makes his triumphant return to the mound in Chicago on Monday, left Boston Saturday night in order to be with his grandmother, who is not feeling well. Guillen expects Buehrle to make his scheduled start.
Hello, old friend: During the course of this disappointing 2007 campaign, Guillen has received support from countless people across baseball. Earlier this week, it was current ESPN analyst and former Cubs manager Dusty Baker who checked in with his old friend.
Guillen stood as one of Baker's biggest backers when times were tough with the Cubs last season.
"He said, 'You're the biggest supporter I have, besides my family. That's why I called you to make sure you know I'm behind you,'" Guillen said. "I appreciated that. Bobby Cox did it. Good friends of mine have asked me how I handled it. I'm fine.
"What's the worst thing that can happen to me, I get fired? So, I'll go home. I will find another job in baseball. That's why, if they don't think I'm doing my job, I will help Kenny Williams and [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] somewhere else or do something.
"Then, I will start to steal the money from them," added Guillen, with a laugh. "Now, I earn it. Every penny, believe me."
Growing pains: Matt Thornton remembers a moment during his rookie year with Seattle in 2004 when he relieved Shigetoshi Hasegawa with the bases loaded and the game on the line, then proceeded to allow all three inherited runners to score. The big left-hander feels the frustration dealt with by rookie Dewon Day and second-year hurler Boone Logan after their walk on the wild side in Saturday's 11-2 loss.
"I've done what happened to them," said Thornton, who added he walked two and gave up a base hit during his rookie moment in Seattle. "Just try to keep your chin up and have fun. The sun comes up the next day, no matter what.
"To me, the biggest thing was letting your teammates down, and I'm sure it's a little overwhelming at times. But we had a little talk over in Cleveland -- just the bullpen -- having a little talk to figure things out and get things going. We told them they have great opportunities to establish themselves and prove themselves this year. They are young and they can come to Spring Training with a foot in the door."
Guillen plans to stick with what he has in relief, not wanting to force young arms such as Gio Gonzalez or Adam Russell into a Major League situation where they are not ready.
Around the horn: Entering Sunday's series finale, the White Sox seven, eight and nine hitters had just three hits in their last 45 at-bats. ... Darin Erstad and Scott Podsednik had one hit apiece as part of their ongoing Minor League rehab, helping Triple-A Charlotte to a 5-1 victory over Scranton-Wilkes Barre on Saturday. Neither player is expected in Chicago on Monday.
Down on the farm: Gonzalez struck out nine over six scoreless innings in leading Double-A Birmingham to a 4-0 victory over Chattanooga on Saturday. Thomas Collaro added his 18th home run in support of the southpaw. Russell gave up one hit during two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. ... Aaron Poreda, the White Sox top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, fanned two in two innings during Great Falls' 8-2 loss to Ogden on Saturday. ... Chris Carter and John Shelby finished with three hits and two RBIs apiece during Class A Kannapolis' 4-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday.
On deck: Buehrle (7-5), who ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.91 ERA, makes his 20th start of the season during Monday evening's contest against Detroit at U.S. Cellular Field at 7:11 p.m. CT. Buehrle is 5-2 with a 1.65 ERA in his last eight trips to the mound.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.