10/20/05 7:28 PM ET
Notes: Contreras used to setting tone
Game 1 starter to go against former teammate Clemens
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Sure it was an honor for Contreras to be selected to the role but after starting the opening games for both of the previous series, the role of tone setter for the playoff rotation is becoming old hat for Contreras.
Instead, his excitement Thursday stemmed more from the fact that this start will match him up against one of his mentors in former Yankees teammate Roger Clemens.
"He taught me a lot," Contreras said through an interpreter. "He's just such a great pitcher. He goes out there and works out every day. He is always going hard. His personality is great toward the game. It [was] great having a teammate like him."
Contreras was familiar with Clemens' success long before he joined him in New York. Watching videos of Clemens in Cuba helped Contreras to work on his own style of pitching that is similar to the one that the future Hall of Famer uses.
"I've always learned a lot from him, the way he pitches the fastball, the splitter; the way he breaks in," Contreras said. "Everything in his body breaks. Everything looks so perfect and I just try to do the same thing like him."
The stage on Saturday will be bigger than either of Contreras' two previous starts in the playoffs this postseason. But even facing off against a pitcher of Clemens' caliber in what could be the biggest game of his career doesn't seem to phase Contreras.
"I'm not nervous at all," Contreras said. "I'm just happy that the team is here on such a great stage. It's a dream come true. I just hope I can get a win for them."
Nerves may not be a factor, but there is much talk about how Contreras will do on such long rest between starts. He had a similar stretch of time off between the Division Series and the ALCS that ended with him taking the loss in Game 1. That's not something that Contreras is concerned about now.
"I don't care about the long rest," Contreras said. "I've been through much longer rest periods before and it hasn't affected me."
With Contreras as the Game 1 starter, the rest of the Sox rotation will stay just as it was for the ALCS. Mark Buehrle will start Game 2, followed by Jon Garland in Houston for Game 3 and Freddy Garcia in Game 4.
According to Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, the success of the four starters in the ALCS, where the Sox recorded four consecutive complete games -- a first in the playoffs since 1969 -- was the reason behind the decision to keep the rotation as is.
"Our thinking is why should we change something, because we can only mess it up," Cooper said.
Possible changes? In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the White Sox have carried 11 pitchers on the roster due to uncertainty with Dustin Hermanson's back, but that could be changing for the World Series.
After saying on Wednesday he didn't expect any changes to the Sox roster, manager Ozzie Guillen changed his tune a bit Thursday, saying there are some question marks surrounding the 25-man roster for the final round.
"The roster is not there yet because we are going to make a couple decisions," Guillen said. "It's just one player I'm going to ask how he is doing, and then we make the decision."
Many believed that player to be Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez who has been suffering from shoulder tightness, but Guillen said that Hernandez was not the player in question.
One possible scenario could be if Hermanson feels like there are no issues with his back, then the Sox may leave right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino off the roster and replace him with infielder Ross Gload. The team has the flexibility to add Gload to the final roster since Frank Thomas was on the disabled list when the 25-man roster was originally set.
Neither Hermanson nor Vizcaino have pitched an inning in the postseason, which would make either a likely choice to leave off if the Sox wanted to add another hitter to the roster.
Not an easy adjustment: The news that the White Sox would face Houston in the World Series brought about more than just talk of the team's matchups or the quality pitching between the two clubs but another obstacle the Sox could face -- the ballpark.
Houston's Minute Maid Park has one of the most unique outfields in the majors with a high slope in center field and a flag pole that resides at the back of the center field.
Someone who knows that all too well is left fielder Scott Podsednik, who spent a good deal of time playing at Minute Maid as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003-2004. Podsednik played center during his stint with the Brewers, and knows all too well the challenges Minute Maid's unique slopes can create for the outfielders.
"It is a bit different, as it's the only center field of its kind," Podsednik said. "The best thing to do for that is during BP is go out and get some fly balls so you can get used to it."
Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand isn't too concerned about the unique nature of the park, and when questioned about whether the pole in the center will get in his way, the outfielder with the nickname "Crash" couldn't help but laugh.
"Usually, the pole doesn't come into play, because you are usually on your face before you hit the pole anyway," Rowand said with a smile.
Sweet dreams: White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has readily admitted during his tenure that the ups and downs of his team have caused him much worry and concern.
So it was news when Williams mentioned that in the three nights since the team clinched its first World Series, he is enjoying something that hasn't come easily for many years.
"Three days in a row I've slept," Williams said with a smile. "It must be since I was 13 years old since I slept three days in a row."
Proud papa: Paul Konerko was expected back at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday afternoon to hit in the batting cages upon his return from Arizona to witness the birth of his first child.
Konerko and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed a baby boy on Wednesday. The news of the birth was one that brought a smile to Guillen's face, especially for the fact there would be another male joining the Sox family.
"We have too many baby girls being born on this," Guillen chided, refering to the recent births of daughters to Joe Crede, A.J. Pierzynski and Freddy Garcia. "There's nothing wrong with girls, but they can't come in the clubhouse."
Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.