04/01/05 9:37 PM ET
Notes: Familiar territory for Podsednik
White Sox's leadoff hitter excited for return to Miller Park
By JR Radcliffe / Special to MLB.com
"I wanted to take that early right walking through the tunnel," Podsednik said about his return to Milwaukee for Chicago's final two exhibition games before Opening Day. "It's going to be exciting to come back, see the guys, playing in front of these fans."
The speedster stole a Major League-best 70 bases for the Brewers in 2004, and the two-day jaunt on the exhibition schedule allowed him to return to the city where he holds the single-season franchise record for swipes.
"I've learned a lot the past couple seasons. I've learned what I'm capable of doing as a player as far as my strengths and weaknesses," Podsednik said. "Last year, I tried to do a lot more than what I was capable of doing. But it's been a good, solid spring. Everybody's ready to get to the real deal. The bell's about to ring, so we have to get the last couple days' work in and get ready for Monday."
Despite thriving on the base paths, much was made of Podsednik's struggles at the plate in 2004, when he hit .244 after logging a .314 average in the same number of games during an impressive rookie campaign one year earlier.
"He worries about himself too much," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If he goes 0-for-4, he worries about it too much. I say, 'Listen, I played 16 years and I went 0-for-4 almost every day. Don't worry about it, just go out and play the game the way you play.'"
"I think I got a little pull-happy last year, I was just trying to do too much with the bat," Podsednik said. "I want (fans) to leave the ballpark thinking, 'Wow, that guy was always on base, and that guy was always in scoring position.' That's my job, I have to use my legs to get on second base and get in scoring position for the guys behind me."
Podsednik was not in the starting lineup for the Friday night meeting with Milwaukee.
Making a pitch: Chicago native and United States Marine Corps Sgt. Efrain Moreno of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Division, will toss the ceremonial first pitch before the sold-out White Sox home opener on Monday against Cleveland. Moreno earned a personal decoration medal and his unit garnered a Presidential Unit Citation for its work during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad in 2003.
Joining Moreno on the hill will be Jack Rooney, president and CEO of U.S. Cellular. Grammy-nominated recording artist Syleena Johnson will sing the national anthem, and a 150-by-350-foot American flag will be displayed in center field by sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes while two U.S. Navy S-3B Viking aircraft based out of Jacksonville, Fla., fly over the stadium.
Jose, can you see? Friday marked the last chance for 33-year-old Jose Contreras to turn his rough spring around, and Guillen agreed that the time had come to make something happen.
"It's time for him to step up. I don't have the chance to baby-sit anymore," Guillen said of the right-hander. "I think he's a grown man. I want his mind to be clear and free, but in the meanwhile, he needs to start to win more games and get consistency.
"We go through a lot of stuff, we try a lot of different things for him, and it seems like it's not working. We told him what he's doing wrong, and to me it's time for him to step up. He's not in Spring Training anymore, he's not in last year's season. We tried to figure out how he's going to fit into this team, and right now it's time to win games."
Contreras entered Friday with a 7.11 ERA in 19 spring innings, allowing 22 hits and 13 walks with 15 strikeouts. Against the Brewers, he gave up three runs on four hits in four innings, but he set down the last eight men he faced, including four via strikeout.
"I felt good, I felt strong, I felt like I was in control," Contreras said after the outing. "I felt great. Spring Training is meant for that, to practice everything you have. I'll be ready for the season. I'm healthy, everything's fine."
I got sunshine: It was an unpleasant and rainy 39 degrees outside of the enclosed Miller Park on Friday, conditions that may allow White Sox players to be a touch envious of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Hernandez was in Miami celebrating at his daughter's 15th birthday party, and will rejoin the club on Monday in Chicago.
"That's big in our country," said Guillen of the occasion. "Besides a wedding, that's the biggest time we do anything."
Though Hernandez is from Cuba and Guillen hails from Venezuela, a girl's 15th birthday, or La Quinceanera, is a fancy and festive event in Hispanic cultures.
On deck: The Brewers and White Sox will meet again at Miller Park on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. CT. Jon Garland will toe the rubber for Chicago and Victor Santos will make the start for Milwaukee.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.