GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The last out in Friday's 7-3 victory for the White Sox over the D-backs came in the form of Brandon Allen's ground ball to first baseman Jim Gallagher.
Upon Gallagher routinely stepping on the bag, catcher A.J. Pierzynski started a celebration falling just short of his World Series leap into closer Bobby Jenks' arms. He motored around the field with his hands in the air, high-fiving a few of his teammates along the way.
Of course, it didn't quite have the passion of completing a four-game sweep of Houston for the White Sox first championship in nine decades. So, why was Pierzynski doing such a good job of portraying excitement?
After 12 Cactus League losses and one tie in games during which Pierzynski started, the White Sox finally won in Arizona with Pierzynski behind the plate.
"It really hasn't mattered to me, but every day getting worn out by [Paul] Konerko, Joey [Cora], [pitching coach Don Cooper], [manager] Ozzie [Guillen], about not having won a game, it got a little old," said a smiling Pierzynski, with his comments quickly turning sarcastic. "So, winning [Friday] meant almost as much as the World Series."
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That same theory holds true for the club's 10-18 Cactus League record, putting it 14th out of 15 teams preparing for the regular season in Arizona. During Guillen's eight years of Spring Training at the White Sox helm, his lone winning record stands at 15-13 in his debut effort of 2004.
His 2005 squad, which won 99 regular-season games and went 11-1 in the postseason and topped the American League Central from start to finish, posted a 14-18 spring ledger.
"Two examples for me are the '05 White Sox, where they were one of the worst teams in Spring Training and won the World Series, and the '01 Mariners," White Sox closer Matt Thornton said. "I think [Mariners] seriously won five games in Spring Training and won 116 games in the regular season.
"Both teams had a lot of veterans. And when you have a lot of veterans, they really do go out, and I know it's cliché, but they work on certain things. When Opening Day comes, you've worked on these things and seen them come together in the last week. You get a new life and energy and get right after it."
For accuracy sake, the 2001 Mariners actually finished Spring Training at 13-19 but Thornton's point remains clear. Numbers certainly can be manipulated to find a different end to this argument, with the White Sox struggling during Spring Training 2007 and finishing with 72 wins.
But this 2011 White Sox team came in with work to do and very few positions to decide, a deep squad looking to be the division favorite. It's a team with one of its practice fields on its side of Camelback Ranch set just for situational hitting, with game moments such as "first and second, nobody out" or "runner on third, one out" called out as the respective hitter steps into the cage.
Position players such as Pierzynski or Adam Dunn don't need to get hits to make the team. Pitchers such as Mark Buehrle or Edwin Jackson don't need sub-2.00 ERAs in order to break camp in the rotation.
"Teams with good records during Spring Training usually have a lot of guys trying to make teams," Pierzynski said. "They are going out thinking, 'I have to get a hit to get on the team.'
"On this team, it's, 'I have to get through this game, get out of here healthy and get ready when the season counts.' Both ways have worked for different organizations.
"You always want to win," Pierzynski said. "At the same time, it's not the most important thing. Everyone here looks like they are climbing, and that's what you want at this time of spring."
Three more games are on the docket for the White Sox in Arizona, before they close out exhibition play against Class A Winston-Salem on Wednesday evening. A 14-17 record says nothing more about this pennant-contending squad than a 10-22 finish.
Certain at-bats over the course of a game will focus on a veteran hitter trying to take the ball to left field, even if the situation doesn't dictate the move. A pitcher will have a hitter completely off balance with his changeup but is out there to work on getting his fastball inside on that particular day. That plan could lead to a couple of hits in sequences not appearing when the games count.
Guillen believes the few questions the White Sox needed to answer were handled over the past six weeks. Thornton was named the closer and Brent Morel earned the nod at third, while Chris Sale is ready for the setup role and Mark Teahen understands his super-utility responsibilities. Jake Peavy showed his stuff is there when he's completely healthy and ready to get back on the mound.
"Everybody went through their business very well, and I'm satisfied with what we have," Guillen said. "You look at that win column. It's not a pretty one, but I [couldn't] care less."
Nonetheless, Pierzynski couldn't be blamed for wanting to quiet his in-house critics.
"Trust me, they had all let me know about it," said Pierzynski. "To finally pull one out means a lot to me."