CHICAGO -- Between slumps, injuries and other players stepping up, manager Ozzie Guillen hasn't had an easy time filling out the White Sox lineup card each day. In fact, he's already used 47 different combinations in the team's first 68 games.
Sunday was no different as four players who didn't start Saturday night's game were in the starting lineup for the series finale against the A's. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and left fielder Juan Pierre were back in their regular spots, Omar Vizquel took over for Gordon Beckham at second base and Mark Teahen made his second start since returning from his stint on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
The different combinations are made possible by the versatility of guys like Vizquel in the infield, Brent Lillibridge in both the outfield and infield, and the return of Teahen, whom the White Sox have used at first base, third base and both right and left field.
"We've said all along, we're a good team," pitcher John Danks said. "We're not only deep on paper, we're pretty darn good on the field, too."
Lillibridge trying to cement everyday role
CHICAGO -- Manager Ozzie Guillen believes Brent Lillibridge is undoubtedly the best outfielder the White Sox have. So it doesn't seem like much of a stretch for pitcher John Danks to say Lillibridge belongs in the lineup every day. The problem is where to put him.
Saturday night, Guillen put the 27-year-old utility man in left field, but that was just to give Juan Pierre a rest. Sunday afternoon, Lillibridge was not in the starting lineup for the series finale against the A's.
With Alex Rios finally starting to heat up in center field -- he began the day hitting .348 in June after entering the month hitting .201 -- and Carlos Quentin and Juan Pierre holding down their regular spots in right and left field, respectively, Lillibridge has been forced to bounce around.. He's started 13 games in right, seven in center and made his third start in left field on Saturday night. He also has one start at second base.
"Yeah, absolutely," said Lillibridge about whether he was happy playing all the different positions. "If that keeps me in the lineup occasionally and I can contribute one way or the other, that's how I'm going to survive in this game."
Guillen's concern, though, is how Lillibridge would hold up as an everyday player. He's never had more than 98 at-bats in a season -- he already has 88 -- and has never had a season batting average above .224. At this point, he's hitting .273 and has belted seven of his 10 career home runs. While the .273 average is well above his career high, it's considerably lower than it was just a couple weeks ago when he was hitting .308 on June 1.
"He can do a lot of good things, a lot of good things," Guillen said. "Can he play every day? I don't know yet. We tried to get him more at-bats and it didn't work, but this year, he's been a lot better and we're going to get him more at-bats, but I don't know yet if he can handle [playing] every day yet."
Options exist to close out ninth inning
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen knows Sergio Santos has what it takes to be his closer, but now he also knows he has other capable guys in his bullpen.
Guillen reiterated his stance on Santos after Jesse Crain picked up his first save of the season in Saturday night's 3-2 win over Oakland, but added he has confidence in a number of his relievers to lock down close games.
"I'm not going to unplug the thing with Santos," Guillen said Saturday. "I still believe in Santos. If Crain is going to be our closer, that's not the way we plan it. But now we know he can do it and when Santos needs a day or [Matt] Thornton, I don't mind putting him out there."
On Sunday, Guillen stuck to his word, giving Santos the ball in a situation identical to the one he faced on Friday night. Entering the ninth with another 5-3 lead, Santos earned the save, albeit in shaky fashion. Santos allowed one run on a walk and a pair of hits, and benefited from a close call at first base that ended the game.For Crain, Friday's save was his first since July 16, 2010, with the Twins when he pitched two-thirds of an inning against the White Sox in a 7-4 victory. His only other career saves came on Sept. 2, 2006, against the Yankees and July 10, 2005, against the Royals.
Thornton and Chris Sale also have two saves each this season, and Crain said the combination of experience between himself, Thornton and Will Ohman has complemented the younger talent of Santos and Sale.
"Our bullpen, in general, it doesn't matter who throws what inning," Crain said. "As long as you have guys who have good arms and have been around and know how to pitch, it shortens the game pretty well for us."
Warm temps heat up White Sox lumber
CHICAGO -- At the beginning of June, second baseman Gordon Beckham said the number of home runs the White Sox hit would start to rise with the temperature. So far, no team has hit more home runs this month than the South Siders.
"We can't get too worried about home runs because this park can play big in the winter and when it gets to be summer, it can play really small," Beckham said at the start of the month. "So it's just a matter of getting to the summer and now you can feel the heat coming, and we usually start playing really well in the summer."
It turns out Beckham knew what he was talking about. With Adam Dunn's three-run shot against the A's on Sunday, the White Sox have homered at least once in each of their 11 games this month and lead the Major Leagues with 17 long balls during that time. Seven players have homered during that stretch.
The power spurt has been fueled by right fielder Carlos Quentin and first baseman Paul Konerko, who have combined to hit nine home runs in June and are fourth (tied) and fifth in the American League, respectively, with 17 and 16 home runs.
"He should be," said Guillen when asked if Konerko is an All-Star. "Both him and Carlos should be out there for us when it comes time."
Third to first
Sergio Santos has a 9.26 ERA over 11 2/3 innings in his last 10 appearances. He didn't allow a single earned run over 19 innings in his first 16 appearances. Omar Vizquel has passed George Brett for 17th all-time on the career at-bats list with 10,351. The White Sox (33-35) are within two games of .500 for the first time since April 18 when they were 7-9.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.