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04/24/08 10:00 PM ET

Defense keeps Uribe on Ozzie's side

Second baseman's job not in jeopardy despite offensive woes

CHICAGO -- For those White Sox fans peppering manager Ozzie Guillen with e-mails concerning Juan Uribe's .167 average and his potential removal from the everyday lineup, don't put too much importance in Alexei Ramirez's start at second base for Thursday's series finale against the Yankees.

Uribe remains Guillen's starter at second, with defense being valued above all else.

"He's my second baseman, unless the Cuban Missile shows up and has four hits, five hits," Guillen said. "Then, we'll put him back in.

"Maybe a lot of people believe in offense, but that's their problem. If we need Uribe to hit good in that ninth spot, then we don't have a good ballclub. Just leave Uribe alone."

Guillen made a couple of pertinent points regarding Uribe's early troubles with the bat. For starters, Guillen pointed out other starters in the White Sox lineup who weren't exactly ripping the baseball on a consistent basis, but they were not the focus of as much media- and fan-based criticism as Uribe.

There was also talk of how Uribe's pattern has become known to the White Sox in his fifth year with the team. Uribe isn't going to hit .280, maybe not even .250, and he's not suddenly going to become a patient hitter. But when Uribe gets hot, for possibly two or three weeks at a time, he can carry an offense.

Having a No. 9 hitter who has driven in an average of 71 runs over each of the past four seasons and knocked out an average of 20 home runs is a luxury not many teams feature. It doesn't hurt that Uribe's defense at second has been as steady as it was when he was a shortstop.

So Guillen is sticking with Uribe. Let the criticism commence -- although Guillen doesn't seem bothered.

"I guarantee all you guys are saying, 'You see, we put too much pressure on Ozzie and finally he benched Uribe,'" Guillen said. "No, Uribe, it's not a day off. I wanted to get some at-bats to Ramirez, and today is the right day to do it.

"I'm going to tell people out there that I will play Uribe as long as I want to play him, not when they want me to play him. I'm the manager of this ballclub, and I will put the best guys out there that I think are the best for the club, not the ones they want to see.

"That's a shame. I'm not saying he's having an incredible year, but he's playing well. If Uribe didn't contribute, he [wouldn't be] playing, but he does. Obviously, it looks uglier when he's struggling up there, but give the kid a break."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.