CHICAGO -- Alex Rios took a called third strike from Joe Nathan to end Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Twins, after singling home Juan Pierre in the eighth.

But his best connection may have come after a called third strike from starter Scott Diamond in the sixth, when a frustrated Rios took his bat to the dugout wall upon stranding Paul Konerko on second.

"He swung the bat pretty good in the dugout. He swung better than at the plate. He was connecting very hard," said Guillen of Rios, hitting .214 with 33 RBIs. "This is a very emotional kid, very emotional. He wants to do good and when he doesn't do what he thinks he can do, he gets angry.

"The only thing I'm concerned about, that I don't like, and I hope I never see, is somebody gets hurt or he gets hurt. But that's the way they are. Everybody goes about their business a different way. I wish it was the ball. If that thing was the ball, that ball would land on the Dan Ryan [Expressway] somewhere."

Bullpen playing key role in White Sox surge

CHICAGO -- The bullpen dominance shown of late by the White Sox played a large part in the team's gradual return to contention in the American League Central.

Including Wednesday afternoon's 7-6 loss to the Twins, the relief crew has a 1.83 ERA in its last 15 games and a 2.42 ERA in its last 63 games, covering 186 1/3 innings. Sergio Santos has not been scored upon on the road this season and has a 0.71 ERA in his last 17 appearances, while Chris Sale has produced a miniscule 1.02 ERA in his last 32 contests, striking out 45 over 44 innings.

Right-handed setup man Jesse Crain had made seven straight scoreless appearances and featured a 1.44 ERA in his last 30 games. The bullpen struggled in the early going, contributing to the team's 11-22 open, but when Santos took over as the unofficial closer on April 25 at Yankee Stadium, the group seemed to find a perfect order late in games.

"You do need order in the bullpen. Really, you need order in anything," Santos said. "When everything is in disarray, nobody really knows.

"It helps us better prepare for what's going to happen. I didn't want [Matt] Thornton and Sale to go on their early struggles, but I was given the opportunity and thankful for what I've been able to do so far. I'm just glad it has helped."

As a unit, the White Sox began the series finale against Minnesota leading American League relief corps with 9.58 strikeouts per nine innings and ranked in the top five in five other categories. The bullpen's 3.41 ERA sat sixth among AL teams.

Pitching coach Don Cooper said from the season's outset that the relievers were unfairly maligned. But on Wednesday, Cooper also credited the starting rotation for making the bullpen stronger.

"What good is the bullpen if the starters don't do the job and give us the lead?" Cooper said. "We always look for six or seven innings or more from them. Six ain't quite enough, seven is the magic number for me and any more is a bonus. I've always said we have a good bullpen, but it starts with the starting pitchers."

Relief appearance in June sticks with Peavy

CHICAGO -- Jake Peavy's love of competition might have admittedly taken a little out of him for the stretch run.

After allowing six runs on six hits in the first inning of Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Twins, raising his ERA to 5.21 and dropping his record to 6-7, Peavy was asked if he had any regrets concerning coming back too soon in the recovery process from 2010 season-ending surgery to reattach his lat muscle. The White Sox right-hander had just one.

"If I could go back and take one thing away, I probably set myself back with the relief appearance I had, and that was all my decision," said Peavy of his seven-strikeout, 55-pitch effort over four innings on June 25 against the Nationals, when the White Sox were in a six-man rotation, but John Danks left early with an oblique strain.

"But I love to compete. Today, I competed as hard as I've ever competed. I left everything I have on the field."

Danks' rough start made him tougher

CHICAGO -- With a 6-1 record and a 2.03 ERA over his last 11 starts, John Danks has returned to the ranks of elite American League starters, as was expected from him before the 2011 campaign began.

But as Danks prepares to open this weekend's set at Comerica Park, taking the mound Friday night against AL Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander, he won't forget the lessons learned during his dismal 0-8 start over his first 11 trips to the mound.

"I know I can pretty much take anything in this game," the easy-going Danks said before Wednesday's series finale with the Twins. "That was the worst stretch in my baseball career, even looking back on Little League.

"I've never been through anything like that. I think I can pretty much take anything that kind of gets thrown at me. It's definitely something that builds strength, I guess, is the way to put it. Confidence, strength. I know I can take a shot to the face for two months and bounce back."

Danks actually took a Stephen Drew shot to the head during a June 18 game in Arizona, but he stayed in the contest and earned the victory.

A.J.'s return won't banish Flowers to bench

CHICAGO -- A.J. Pierzynski was scheduled to serve as the designated hitter for Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday, then catch for the Knights on Thursday. His Minor League injury rehab will hopefully end then, if his fractured left wrist passes all the tests, and Pierzynski will return to the White Sox in Detroit this weekend.

But Tyler Flowers' impressive performance with the bat, and in handling the White Sox, pitching staff might give him more time than simply one or two periodic starts. Manager Ozzie Guillen paused for a moment to assess the situation when asked about Flowers' role Wednesday.

"Tyler has been great. Very good," Guillen said. "When A.J. gets here, we'll figure out how we play him. I don't want to say A.J. is not playing, but we really like, I really like, the way Tyler is behind the plate right now."

Donny Lucy already is with the White Sox, and the team could possibly add another catcher with September callups. So Flowers could even see time as designated hitter.

Ozzie: No sympathy for banged-up Twins

CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen has a great deal of respect for the Twins and considers Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire one of his closest friends in the game. But Guillen had to laugh when asked Wednesday if he felt any sympathy for Gardenhire and the Twins' 2011 plight.

"No, I just told him last night, 'How you feel now? Yeah, put yourself in my spot now. How's that feel?'" said a smiling Guillen. "No, because when we lose, they don't feel bad for me.

"I told him last night, 'It's your turn.' The way they do stuff out there, it's kind of like wow, obviously, they have a hospital over there all year long. You can't win with most of your players hurt. It's hard to do."

"But do I feel bad for him?" Guillen said. "No, because I've seen him celebrating a lot with a lot of champagne over his body when I've watched him [over the years]. Get them next year, Gardy."

Third to first

• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't sound inclined to go to a four-man rotation any time soon. The club briefly considered making the move earlier this month but decided against it.

• Five White Sox pitchers, including Jake Peavy, allowed one run on three hits over the last eight innings of Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Twins. Peavy gave up six runs on six hits in the first.

• Peavy is 0-5 with a 7.46 ERA in his last seven starts at home.

• Although Guillen said nothing is set yet, it looks as if Philip Humber and Zach Stewart will start Monday's split doubleheader at Target Field.