6/30/2013 4:00 P.M. ET
Defense at root of White Sox disappointment
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- When the White Sox left Arizona to begin the regular season at home against Kansas City in early April, general manager Rick Hahn thought his team had the makings of an American League Central title contender. Needless to say, the results through 79 games have not gone as planned.
"We're all more than a little surprised by the way it's played out this season," Hahn said. "Thus far, the performance has been way below what we projected, what the players feel they're capable of doing, which is why you have that frustration inside those walls.
"First of all, there is frustration, disappointment and at times disgust. We try to look forward inside that clubhouse about winning today and winning tomorrow and trying to get this thing turned around pretty quickly. The focus of [manager] Robin [Ventura] and his staff is: 'What do we need to do to win today?'"
This team's success was predicated on pitching and defense, with the same sort of offensive support that allowed the White Sox to finish last season fourth in the AL in runs scored. The offense has come up short, ranking 13th or 14th in five categories, but the White Sox .981 fielding percentage -- 14th in the AL -- has truly been stunning for what was one of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball last season.
"If I was able to pinpoint one thing that caused the defense to struggle, we wouldn't be seeing it struggle as much as we have," Hahn said. "I know they've been working extraordinarily hard. I know we've seen players in just the first two or three months of the season surpass their previous full-season error total, which is a surprise.
"I do think, unfortunately, you get to a point where guys start pressing and mistakes start snowballing. We are playing this many close games. The feeling is that the margin of error is so small and that increases the pressure on guys. We need a couple of 10-run blowouts to let guys exhale and get going."
Konerko expects to return on Tuesday
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko hopes to return to the White Sox lineup for Tuesday's series opener against Baltimore, having tested his sore back with swings in the batting cage again on Sunday.
Konerko has missed the first six games of this homestand.
"I'm kind of on the way up and out of it," Konerko said. "But it feels good. Part of it, again, is that the soreness isn't bad and all that ... but obviously, you want to take swings.
"I hadn't swung a bat in five, six days until yesterday, so you can't really judge it on how you are swinging it sometimes, because you would look bad anyway if you haven't swung for a few days. There's still a little soreness on the follow-through, a little bit. I feel like that will be gone by Tuesday."
With the White Sox off Monday, the plan for Konerko is to not do anything and take a day of rest. He took 75 or 80 swings on Saturday and another 50 on Sunday in preparation for a return.
"Unless [White Sox athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] tells me otherwise, I'll probably do nothing [on Monday], then come back in on Tuesday for a full day's work," Konerko said. "Get ready, get heated up, get going, take BP, do the whole thing."
"He's swinging and making sure it feels fine, but he does feel better," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "The worst case is Tuesday at this point. Hopefully he can pinch-hit, be in that spot to come in and do something late. We're just staying away from having him play today to make sure he's fine by Tuesday."
Flowers increasingly willing to pounce on strikes
CHICAGO -- Over the past 18 games entering Sunday's series finale against the Indians, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers had produced a .273 average with four homers and nine RBIs. It's an aggressive step forward for Flowers, who has raised his average to .216.
"It seems to be helping me in multiple aspects: recognizing pitches, laying off certain pitches," Flowers said of his more aggressive approach at the plate. "I'm hitting balls a little bit better and a little bit harder. That kind of stuff.
"Nothing mechanical or anything like that. I'm just kind of trying to get a good pitch to hit and trying to hit it hard."
While Flowers doesn't want to get too wild with his swings in this aggressive adjustment, he also doesn't want to give away hittable pitches early in the count.
"I don't really have the luxury of giving away strikes or giving a guy strike one," Flowers said. "I feel like those are pitches I need to take advantage of and put a little bit more pressure on their guy so they know I'm not going to sit there and take a pitch. Hopefully, that will more often than not get me ahead in the count to get me a better pitch to hit.
"But not just that, as far as my swing, I'm just trying to really drive balls. I'm not really going up there and trying to finesse it to the right side or something, unless the situation dictates. For the most part, I'm trying to be overall more aggressive."
Third to first
• Jake Peavy played catch again on Sunday and hopes to throw a bullpen session as early as Tuesday.
• The White Sox entered Sunday with a 9-16 record against the AL Central this season: 5-4 vs. the Royals, 2-6 vs. the Indians and 2-6 vs. the Twins. The Sox have yet to play the Tigers in 2013.