Pierzynski continues to struggle
Catcher frustrated by slow start at the plate
CHICAGO -- The ongoing offensive problems for White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski have taken their toll in the form of a few shattered bats following Pierzynski groundouts or fly outs during this six-game homestand.
The White Sox catcher has one hit in his last 26 at-bats and three hits in his last 35 trips to the plate, dropping his average to an astounding .140. But hitting coach Greg Walker figures the .286 career hitter will eventually get back to the level found on the back of his baseball card.
"All I'll say is A.J. is a really good offensive player," Walker said. "When he finds a spot where he's mentally at peace, he'll start to get a bunch of hits. Right now, he's fighting the game, and when you fight the game, you don't get good results.
"He's frustrated and an emotional guy. He's a bad ball hitter when he's going good. But when things are going bad, the fact he swings at bad pitches doesn't help out. When you lose confidence, you miss pitches you should hit. He's frustrated and he'll fight his way through it and be fine. He's my friend, so I hope it happens sooner rather than later."
To Pierzynski's credit, he had a seven-pitch at-bat against Seattle's David Aardsma in the ninth inning of Saturday's win before flying out to center field. That extended effort helped Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios get a better look at Aardsma's fastball and his location.
Rios at ease on and off the field
CHICAGO -- Alex Rios stands before White Sox fans as a changed man.
No, he hasn't lost or gained weight or made some huge adjustment in his game. Rios simply feels more comfortable around the team which claimed him off waivers last Aug. 10, a perceptible difference noticeable as far back as Spring Training.
Saturday's walk-off home run and Rios' .273 average following Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Mariners show how this at-ease feeling for Rios has translated into results.
"Yeah, he's very talented. He's physically very gifted," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "He's a big guy with a lot of bat speed. If his head's in the right place, which it is, and now he's all settled in here, it's tough for him not to hit, in my opinion.
"He has that kind of talent. He didn't get off on the right foot last year, but he put that behind him, which is great."
Manager Ozzie Guillen likes how Rios is trying to hit the ball more up the middle. Hitting seventh, the center fielder doesn't have to feel as if he needs to carry this offense, as he might have felt to some extent when first arriving in Chicago last year.
For a lean and quick player, Rios also has immense strength. One nationally televised baseball show spoke Sunday morning of how Rios once broke 17 batting helmets in half with his bare hands during a season with Toronto. Rios confirmed that report with a laugh when Juan Pierre joked with him about it Sunday morning.
The fact that Rios can joke around with his teammates and feel like one of the group speaks greater volumes about his success than even his power.
"Baseball is a game of redemption," Konerko said. "That's what you are seeing here, and it's nice to see."
Guillen fine with present roster
CHICAGO -- The thought process behind going with Jayson Nix as the 25th man and not a 13th pitcher out of Spring Training stemmed from the club's confidence in its deep starting staff. But even with the early struggles for Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia factored into the equation, manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't feel the need for a change to compensate for the bullpen overload.
"Right now we are fine," Guillen said. "We have to be careful about the people we have in the bullpen. We have good things going on there and want to try to keep it the best we can.
"Every day is different. Some guys give me four innings and the next guy gives me eight. Hopefully everyone out there gives me six-plus. We expect them to do that and the bullpen will be back on track. We have to be very, very careful."
Santos finds a fan base
CHICAGO -- How much of an impact has Sergio Santos made at the start of his first Major League season? The infielder-turned-pitcher already has his own fan group, called "Sergio's Santos."
They can be found behind the left-field bullpen, wearing wrestling masks. Their support has not gone unnoticed by Santos.
"Absolutely. It's great," Santos said. "I'll take all the support, all the good thoughts and good vibes I can get."
When Santos was a youngster, he used to watch Mexican professional wrestling with his dad, and a wrestler named El Santo was considered the Hulk Hogan of that particular federation. Santos pointed out how he was the only one who could wear the white mask, like his fan base. But don't look for Santos to slip a mask on when he goes to the mound.
There's no reason to hide with eight scoreless appearances on his career resume.
"It would be intimidating and different," said Santos with a laugh. "I don't want to bring that much attention to myself. I just want to stay low-key for now and see what happens."
Buehrle impressed by 'Fordham Flip'
CHICAGO -- The amazing defensive play coming from Mark Buehrle on Opening Day set the benchmark for which all sparkling efforts with the glove will be judged during the remainder of the 2010 season. Buehrle also can appreciate the effort of Fordham's Brian Kownacki, who literally flipped over an Iona catcher in acrobatic fashion to score a run last week.
In fact, Buehrle was surprised Kownacki was not a pitcher.
"Most athletes in baseball are pitchers, so I was surprised to find out he was an actual position player making a play like that," said Buehrle with a sarcastic grin. "It's one of those plays where you think it would be easy to happen if a guy is coming home and a guy is sitting there.
"You have to have instinct because it happened so quick. You don't plan to run down the line and say I'm going to jump over this guy. It just happens."
On a Lou Marson grounder off his left shin on April 5, Buehrle chased down the ricochet near the first-base line and flipped the ball with his glove between his legs -- sort of like one of those remarkable Roger Federer winners on the tennis courts. His no-look, glove-hand flip ended up being a perfect strike to Konerko, who caught the ball with his bare hand. Buehrle admitted there was no comparison to what Kownacki accomplished.
"Mine was just luck," Buehrle said. "There was no athletic ability."
Third to first
Sunday's game was delayed by rain for 42 minutes, and played during intermittent showers, but manager Ozzie Guillen continues to be surprised how the White Sox had no April cancellations at home. Avoiding those makeup doubleheaders is fine with him. "Every time we play a doubleheader, it's a day-night now and we have not had too much success doing that in the past," Guillen said. ... Freddy Garcia will have an extra day of rest before he opens the weekend set at Yankee Stadium for the White Sox this Friday. But Guillen expects Garcia to work on a regular four days' rest and not have the extended time off (eight days) as he did prior to Saturday's stellar seven-inning effort. ... Mark Teahen has gone 13-for-37 since starting the season 0-for-10. ... The White Sox won Sunday for the first time this season when scoring three runs or fewer. They were 0-10 previously. ... The White Sox and Cubs will announce a historic partnership involving the teams' annual Crosstown Showdown during a Monday morning press conference at Millennium Park. Players and front office representatives will be in attendance for both teams. ... Jeremy Piven threw out one of the first pitches prior to Sunday's contest.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.