CHICAGO -- The White Sox rotation to start the second half in Minnesota has been set, with left-hander John Danks opening the final 75 games of this exciting 2010 campaign at Target Field on July 15.
Danks will be followed by Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia, with Daniel Hudson most likely getting the call for the series opener in Seattle on July 19. Although pitching coach Don Cooper said there was no special process used in coming up with the alignment, the lefty tandem of Danks and Buehrle have been split after working back-to-back in five consecutive turns through the rotation.
Buehrle and Garcia, veteran hurlers whose workloads the White Sox will monitor to increase the chances for second-half success, also receive an extra day's rest. Garcia has been one of the biggest White Sox first-half surprises with his 9-3 record and 4.36 ERA, but manager Ozzie Guillen has no doubt the right-hander will find the same level of excellence after the All-Star break.
"Freddy knows he has to work hard to stay sharp. Freddy knows he has to work harder to work through the season," Guillen said. "I tell players in Spring Training, do not prepare yourself mentally and physically to go through the season.
"We've got to go through November. Make sure we play all the way to the last drop in November. They're aware. They know my mentality is to win the World Series. It's not in the playoffs. Not to sound cocky or arrogant, because you've got to make the playoffs first and try to win the division, but mentally you've got to prepare yourself for the best."
Minnesota has Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn scheduled to face the White Sox, meaning that the South Siders miss Scott Baker. Cooper, meanwhile, just wants to see more of the same from his red-hot starters, with no special watches placed on any one pitcher in particular.
Entering Sunday's first-half finale, the rotation has a 19-5 record with a 2.23 ERA and 27 quality starts in the past 30 games.
"Our only watch is hopefully them going out and doing what they are doing," Cooper said. "What we are doing right now, let's not get in the way of that. If we want to go finish the deal, our biggest games and challenges lay ahead."
White Sox offense can improve from within
CHICAGO -- Improving the White Sox offense, which entered the All-Star break with a .288 average over its previous 30 games, might not necessarily be tied to the acquisition of a big bat such as Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn. Slumping hitters like Carlos Quentin, Andruw Jones, A.J. Pierzynski and especially Gordon Beckham need only to get back to previous levels of solid performance to help the attack.
"You mean going from no production to production?" said Beckham with a wry smile of his .310 average in his final 12 games before the break, following Sunday's three-hit effort in a 15-5 victory over the Royals. "I'm going to hit and it was a matter of time trying to get a feel, and I've got that feel. That will carry over. It should help the offense and hopefully I can get back in there and do some damage."
"Gordon is the last guy to be scuffling, but I've been encouraged by what I've seen the last week with his swing," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. "He has got a hold of something, a feel. His pregame work is head and shoulders better than it has been all year. Getting a good start for him to the second half would be our only priority, and then just keep everyone else doing what they are doing."
Quentin was slowed by a sore left knee but hit .367 with 11 home runs and 24 RBIs in the final 16 games of the first half. The slugging outfielder also is hitting .361 (22-for-61) with runners in scoring position.
"I've had some good swings, some balls over the plate, and I've been fortunate not to miss," said Quentin. "As a hitter, you never want to miss a ball over the plate. It's an opportunity to do something good and you want to put good swings on those balls."
Division title would be special for Ozzie
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen already has the 2005 World Series title to his managerial credit and the 2008 American League Central crown, captured during a 1-0 division playoff victory over the Twins known as the "Blackout" game. But winning the AL Central in 2010 would hold extra meaning for Guillen because of his team's poor start, which caused it to be written out of contention.
"There's one thing about it, I want to win the division this year more than any year," Guillen said. "A lot of people counted those guys out. They threw a lot of dirt on the top, and they came out and put on a run. That's one of my best things. I want those guys to win it for them. To prove people wrong is the best thing you can ever do.
"The way we start, I think this is an unbelievable comeback, it's unbelievable how quick we did it. We were swimming against the current for 2 1/2 months. The one thing I feel proud about this ballclub, when we were in bad, bad shape, we didn't point fingers, we didn't blame anyone.
"They let the manager talk and have the power to criticize the team when they have to," Guillen said. "We stick together, and the players still got along very well. And that's hard to do when you do 2 1/2 months the way we did it. The reason we turned this thing around is because these guys believed in the themselves. They went through tough times, and they showed people who they are."
Third to first
White Sox infielder Brent Lillibridge's pinch-hit on Sunday made him 5-for-5 with five extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter. He also has seven RBIs in the role. ... Third baseman Dayan Viciedo went 7-for-18 with two doubles, two home runs and four RBIs on the White Sox homestand ... The White Sox completed their sixth perfect homestand in franchise history. Five featured 7-0 records and one was a 6-0 showing. ... Mark Buehrle will be attending the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night, before returning to the team on Thursday. Buehrle has been nominated for a yet-to-be revealed award.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.