CHICAGO -- The return of Chris Sale to the White Sox starting rotation Saturday night didn't work out quite as well as Nate Jones' career-high 2 1/3-inning scoreless relief stint.
Jones fanned four in posting his fourth straight scoreless appearance, a streak that ended in Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Royals, when he gave up Jeff Francoeur's solo homer, and ninth scoreless outing in 11 trips to the mound this season.
Throwing strikes has been the key for Jones, a right-hander with a fastball that gets up near 100 mph. But it has been more of a mental adjustment than a physical change in finding the strike zone.
"I just go out there and the big thing for me is throwing strikes, just pumping in strikes, putting the pressure on hitters and letting the defense do their job," Jones said. "[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and [bullpen coach] Juan [Nieves] have just challenged me mentally, going in there and pumping in strike one, getting the first two out of three pitches in for strikes.
"We've really been concentrating on that. Last night I had a really good rhythm with A.J. [Pierzynski] going and we just kept coming after the hitters. It's more focus mentally and just coming out and attacking."
Everything for Jones works off of establishing his high-octane fastball, but getting his offspeed pitches in for strikes makes it much harder on opposing hitters. Jones also admits to gaining a higher level of confidence as his rookie season has progressed.
"Those first couple of times I'm not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous coming in Texas and here, both of them being opening weekends," Jones said. "I've calmed down a little bit, and have learned to trust my stuff and do my thing out there."
Dunn appreciates power of the long ball
CHICAGO -- As a man who connected for 376 career home runs entering Sunday's series finale against the Royals, Adam Dunn can appreciate how difficult it really is to consistently clear the fences.
But Dunn admits that sometimes targeting home runs helps his overall offensive approach.
"If I'm swinging at a lot of stuff, I'll go up and say, 'I'm going to try to hit a home run' and that zones you up," said Dunn, who has 11 home runs in 2012. "You won't swing at a pitch that you can't square up to hit a home run.
"It's not necessarily that I'm going to hit a home run, but you are kind of thinking, 'Let's get a pitch to try to hit a home run here.' You don't hit a lot of home runs doing that, but you don't swing at a lot of bad pitches. It's still hard to go up and hit a home run when you are trying."
Talk of the long ball took center stage on Sunday because of Josh Hamilton's nine homers in his last six games, and not just because Dunn already had matched last year's home run total by the start of May. Dunn once worked out with Hamilton in Bradenton, Fla., after Hamilton was first drafted by the Devil Rays and the two played together with the Reds in 2007.
While Dunn always understood that Hamilton possessed immense talent in pretty much every area of his game, what the left-handed slugger has done for the Rangers through the first six weeks of 2012 has bordered on incredible.
"Like I said a lot of times before, it's not as easy to hit home runs nowadays as it was," Dunn said. "[Hamilton] is making it look like it's Little League. It's pretty amazing what he's doing."
Ventura mulling Dunn in left for Cubs set
CHICAGO -- With the designated hitter disappearing this weekend during three Interleague games at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura indicated on Sunday that he will get Adam Dunn in left field against the Cubs and possibly for all three contests.
"It's a possibility, yeah," said Ventura of Dunn to the outfield. "I'm going to watch him catching some fly balls during [batting practice]. He has to play at some point. He'll probably play left field.
"We had him out there in Spring Training I think a couple of times. We'll find a way for him to get in there. The way he's swinging it and what he does for our lineup, you need to find a way to get him in there."
Dunn played in right field for two games for the White Sox during the 2011 season. He played left field for the Reds, Diamondbacks and even the Nationals before coming to the White Sox, while also having 25 career homers at Wrigley.
Sale stronger following his rotation return
CHICAGO -- White Sox lefty Chris Sale played long toss on Sunday and went through his normal shoulder program the day after his five-inning return to the starting rotation.
Sale said that he usually feels more of the soreness on Day 2 after a start, but believes his rotation layoff since May 1, with one relief outing mixed in, helped him to feel stronger.
"I definitely feel a lot better on this Day 1 than the last few," Sale said. "Just trying to build up and stay up on things and making sure we dot all the I's and cross all the T's."
In a Sunday morning conversation with MLB.com, Sale also made clear that his personal petition to return to the rotation presented directly to general manager Ken Williams came after a meeting with manager Robin Ventura and his staff in Detroit.
Sale was told of his change from starter to closer last Friday in Detroit, but requested a meeting with Ventura and his staff that next day to plead his case, and was then given the opportunity to talk with Williams.
White Sox proud in pink to support cause
CHICAGO -- Pink bats, pink wristbands and even pink cleats and sunglasses were sported in honor of Mother's Day by the White Sox during Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Royals.
Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Brent Morel swung the pink bats in the starting lineup, while A.J. Pierzynski and Alejandro De Aza used them off the bench.
"It's been going on for a couple of years," said Rios of the pink bats. "I always use them just to support the cause."
The pink bats produced four hits for the White Sox, but it was Major League Baseball's unwavering support of true unsung heroes that meant the most on this day.
"What Major League Baseball does as far as honoring this day and breast cancer awareness, it's a big day and we like to show support," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Guys realize what their moms have done and what their wives do, as far as raising the kids while you're gone. It's an important day for us."
Third to first
Reliever Jesse Crain completed his second Minor League rehab outing in just nine pitches for Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday afternoon. The right-hander, putting his recovering left oblique through its final test, struck out two in a scoreless frame to open the contest. Crain is expected to rejoin the White Sox on Monday, with a corresponding move to be made.
Philip Humber and possibly even John Danks, who are slated to start the first two games on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Wrigley, probably won't travel with the team for the two games in Anaheim on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
Alexei Ramirez got his first day off this season on Sunday. Ramirez is mired in a 14-for-90 slump over his last 22 games.
Reliever Matt Thornton owns a 20.25 ERA over his last five outings after taking the loss in Sunday's 9-1 setback to the Royals.
Tyler Flowers is 6-for-7 in nailing attempted basestealers following Sunday's action.