06/30/12 5:30 PM ET
Without Crain, White Sox relievers lean young
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
"It's a pretty young group, but there's energy that comes with that," Ventura said. "There's excitement and a lot of good things that come with it. Some people view it as a negative. I'm looking more at the positives."
Pierzynski sees both sides of All-Star honor
NEW YORK -- A.J. Pierzynski should be a 2012 American League All-Star.
That's something the White Sox catcher believes, and it's a fact supported statistically.
Entering Saturday afternoon's contest at Yankee Stadium, Pierzynski led all Major League catchers with 45 RBIs and ranked second with 14 homers and a .517 slugging percentage. His .285 average placed him fifth among all backstops.
Pierzynski is on pace to set career highs in homers (29), RBIs (95), slugging percentage and innings caught (1,171). But the veteran also knows his first-half numbers won't necessarily translate to his name being called on Sunday at noon CT on TBS during the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell.
"It would be great. I've done it a couple of times; it's awesome," said Pierzynski, who was off for Saturday's day game after Friday's 3 1/2-hour contest, a 14-7 win over the Yankees in which he hit two home runs. "It's the ultimate personal reward as a player to be voted as an All-Star, to go there and enjoy the game.
"At the same time, I know how it works. It's a popularity contest, and I know I'm probably not going to win it. I've been there before. I've had good first halves before and not gone, so I'm not going to put a whole lot of stock into it -- or get my hopes up."
Voting closed on Thursday night, but on Monday, when the final AL ballot update was released, Pierzynski had received 1,416,594 votes and trailed three other catchers, including leading vote-getter Mike Napoli of the Rangers (3,008,228).
After spotting the Yankees a four-run lead in the first on Friday, the White Sox began their comeback with Pierzynski's leadoff homer in the second. His second blast of the game gave Chicago the lead. He sits just four homers short of matching his career best for homers, set in 2005.
Home runs have come consistently for Pierzynski this year, even in times of slumps, although the career .284 hitter with 142 homers hasn't suddenly changed his approach to seek out more power.
"We talked about it when [former hitting coach Greg Walker] was here and now [Jeff] Manto, just trying to 'technique' guys," Pierzynski said. "Now that I've gotten a little bit older, I've settled down a little bit. I still have my moments where I get mad, but I've kind of learned to control [myself] a little bit better.
"Just get the barrel and backspin balls instead of getting a little bit anxious and getting out front. I've always hit a lot of balls with topspin. It's gotten me a lot of hits, but it doesn't lead to hitting for power. This year, I've hit a lot more balls with backspin that have carried."
Whether those home runs carry Pierzynski to his third career All-Star appearance -- the Midsummer Classic will be played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on July 10 and air at 7 p.m. CT on FOX -- will be revealed on Sunday. It's an appearance that would mean as much to Pierzynski the family man as it would to Pierzynski the player.
"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it," Pierzynski said. "The biggest thing for me is my kids are old enough to understand. Last time I went, my daughter wasn't even a year old. My son is 5, daughter is 7, so that would be cool; they would enjoy it. But it's also nice to get home for four days and be able to relax and get away from the game for a while.
"I'd love to go, but I know how it works. I know how the votes go. The fans vote, and they pick who they pick and the players get the second vote. As we know in every publication, I usually don't win those players' votes. But it's fine. I've had some discussions with my wife, and like I said, I think I deserve it, but there are a lot of guys who are deserving who don't get to go."
Alexei hopes second homer snaps drought
NEW YORK -- Of the four home runs hit by the White Sox in Friday night's 14-7 win over the Yankees, Alexei Ramirez's blast might have been the most important for the team. His second of the season snapped a 262-at-bat homerless streak for a player who had averaged 17 per season in his first four years.
Manager Robin Ventura pointed to June and July as the time when Ramirez usually takes off, although the shortstop also has career averages of .283 in May, .296 in June and .305 in July. Ramirez believes that one homer might start him on the road to numerous fence clearers.
"It could be a spark," Ramirez said through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "It gives you more confidence. Right now, to be honest with you, I'm trying to get some runs in and just doing as much as I can to contribute for the team."
Ramirez does have 37 RBIs and a .362 average with runners in scoring position, and he had raised his overall average to .252 entering play on Saturday by hitting at a .438 clip over his previous 13 games. That improvement still doesn't erase the slow start for the shortstop with Gold Glove defensive ability.
"This is definitely, I would say, one of my worst years ever that I've had," Ramirez said. "They say you are going to go through bad years. This is what I'm going through. I've just got to keep pushing along and see what I can do to help team. That's the most important thing."
Humber optimistic ahead of first rehab start
NEW YORK -- Philip Humber departed for Georgia on Saturday afternoon, preparing to make his first Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday at Gwinnett. Humber was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 17 with a right elbow flexor strain but has made steady progress in his quest for a healthy return.
"I'm just trying to get back here, and the first step is tomorrow -- get in a game," Humber said. "Then get back to doing what I do. I'm excited and ready to go.
"Yeah, it feels good right now, but there are still some hurdles to cross, as far as pitches I'm throwing. Definitely, when you get in the game, it's a little bit different. I'm looking forward to testing it out. So far, so good. Everything is progressing."
The right-hander threw the 21st perfect game in Major League history on April 21 at Seattle. But in the 10 trips to the mound since that game, Humber posted a 2-4 record with a 7.47 ERA. After what will most likely be a second Minor League start, Humber hopes to be activated for the second half and contribute to the White Sox American League Central title quest.
"It's frustrating, but sometimes it's just part of the game," Humber said. "When we are playing well, you just want to get out there and be able to help, be a part of it."
Third to first
Jake Peavy will contribute $100 to pancreatic cancer research for each strikeout thrown in every Major League Baseball game on Saturday. The charitable endeavor is in honor of Peavy's friend and mentor, former San Diego Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who lost his 19-month battle with pancreatic cancer last Sunday.
"It's been a rough week, rough year," Peavy said after striking out 11 in Saturday's 4-0 White Sox loss to the Yankees. "I don't want to overhype anything. It's all about what he's done. He was a great friend, great guy. Ak was a good man, and I'm just trying to honor him."
Peavy will also match the $52,000 raised in his "A Day with Jake Peavy" charity raffle, which named a winner on June 12, Akerfelds' 50th birthday.
The White Sox were shut out for an eighth time -- a fourth time on the road -- in Saturday's loss.