BALTIMORE -- Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gordon Beckham, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Zach Stewart made a special Wednesday morning trip to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., visiting with wounded veterans. The White Sox signed autographs, passed out autographed hats and took pictures with the medical support staff.
Buehrle said the trip was so meaningful that he would have gone even if Wednesday was his day to pitch. Buehrle mentioned that the goal was to try to give these individuals a break from thinking about impending surgery or rehab work, and talking with them for 90 minutes helped put his own everyday life in perspective.
"Oh, big time. It's just the little stuff people complain about," Buehrle said. "You go down there and see these guys who have gone through 10 surgeries and they still have to go through a bunch more.
"Some of the guys, you don't know how much detail they want to get into. Some of them are open to kind of throw it out there and tell you everything."
A few of the hospitalized veterans on this trip were from Chicago, giving the White Sox a bit more recognition. But recognition was not the point of this excursion, in a group including head athletic trainer Herm Schneider, assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger and assistant director of media relations Pat O'Connell.
"It was cool because there were some White Sox fans, so it was a big deal for them," Stewart said. "But it was just as much fun for us to visit them and tell them thanks.
"You hear what's going on, but to see what the guys who have been there, all they have been through. They still have the fight left in them and a lot of spirit. It was really cool to see."
Stewart or Humber may be headed to 'pen
BALTIMORE -- The White Sox starting rotation has not been officially set past this weekend's home Kansas City series, with Zach Stewart, Jake Peavy and John Danks facing the Royals in that order.
But pitching coach Don Cooper believes a decision will be made by Saturday, with the likelihood of a five-man rotation returning.
"More than likely, and this is not official, we move one of the guys to the bullpen," Cooper said. "We have off-days coming up, and that's too many days off for a lot of guys.
"We are looking at it and we are going to reassess and see what we have to do. Right now, it is what it is through Sunday."
Waiting until Saturday to make the official call could mean the White Sox will be deciding between the rookie Stewart and Philip Humber, who gave up four runs on 11 hits over six innings during Wednesday's 6-4 loss in 10 innings to the Orioles, in regard to a relief move. The White Sox are off on Monday and then again on Aug. 22 and 25, and want to get as many starts as possible for their front four of Mark Buehrle, Peavy, Danks and Gavin Floyd as they closely pursue the Tigers and Indians in the American League Central.
"Moving a guy to our bullpen will strengthen our 'pen and give us more innings out there," Cooper said. "Right now, today through Sunday, it's all hands on deck. There are no spa days. Everybody is going to be ready every day. We'll do whatever we have to do to try to win the ballgame."
Specialist Ohman providing help in long relief
BALTIMORE -- The most certainty surrounding Will Ohman's current relief role is that when the bullpen phone rings and his name is called, the veteran enters the game.
"It has evolved," said a smiling Ohman. "Let's just say I'm a relief pitcher."
Ohman, who turns 34 on Saturday, was brought to the White Sox via a two-year, $4 million deal with the idea of the southpaw serving as a lefty specialist. Left-handed hitters have just a .210 career average against him, and Ohman has never averaged an inning per appearance in a single season. During the 2008 season with the Braves, for example, Ohman made 83 appearances and threw 58 2/3 innings.
But the makeup of the 2011 White Sox bullpen, along with the frequent usage of a six-man rotation since Jake Peavy's return on May 11, has moved Ohman into a rotating relief role. On Tuesday, he struck out Nick Markakis with the tying run on third and two outs in the seventh as his only hitter and then he retired Markakis with one pitch in the ninth during Wednesday's 6-4 loss in 10 innings. During a game last Wednesday against the Yankees, Ohman hurled a career-high 3 2/3 innings.
Four of his outings have covered at least two innings, with 23 of his 39 appearances lasting one inning. Ohman could have that long relief role reduced if the White Sox return to a five-man rotation and Zach Stewart or Philip Humber goes to the bullpen.
"You know, they signed me for a specific reason, but the way our roster turned out, we don't have that flexibility," Ohman said. "Sometimes you have to get extended. It's just part of being on a team.
"I'm very accustomed to going in and getting two guys and throwing that late inning, whatever. But as it works out right now, that's not where they need me."
Improved defense key ingredient to success
BALTIMORE -- Entering Wednesday's contest at Camden Yards, the White Sox had the No. 1 fielding percentage in the Majors at .9881. Their 52 errors also were fewest in baseball.
Ozzie Guillen always has been a manager who values defense, probably because he was adept in this area as a shortstop. Early-season miscues proved costly to the White Sox, but this run to contention has been spurred by everyone catching the baseball and making the plays.
"We take a lot of pride on defense. I think we try to work harder," Guillen said. "You cannot win games without defense. And we lost a few games early because we couldn't catch a ball and that cost us a lot of games.
"Even with that, our defense has played better. When you combine good defense with good pitching, you're always going to be in the game. That's the reason we don't lose that many games with blown saves or [when we're] up by runs. It's a great thing to have."
White Sox quiet on Bautista's claim
BALTIMORE -- Toronto's Jose Bautista was quick to point to the White Sox as the team with which he had a 2010 altercation as part of sign-stealing allegations, as reported by ESPN The Magazine. Bautista called those allegations "sad, funny and ridiculous all at the same time."
As for the White Sox players' response, questions of whether the verbal altercation even took place were met with no comments but also a few smiles. Manager Ozzie Guillen had heard of the Toronto allegations since last year, but said he wasn't going to refer to anonymous sources. He also believes getting help from outside the field is not acceptable.
"If that happens, somebody has problems," Guillen said. "That's a no-no."
Third to first
Backup catcher Ramon Castro, who suffered a fractured right hand and index finger on July 9 against the Twins, had the cast and pins removed on Tuesday at Rush University Medical Central. Castro is beginning early motion and movement rehab. Since May 7, the White Sox and Tigers are the only American League Central teams over .500, with both clubs 46-37. Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch for the 22nd time during Wednesday's 6-4 loss in 10 innings.