Notes: Final roster decisions made
Guillen puts experience ahead of youthful excellence
CHICAGO -- The final decisions regarding the White Sox playoff roster for the Division Series were so taxing on manager Ozzie Guillen that they sapped some of the excitement from one of the greatest moments in his professional baseball career. And remember, this is a man who probably could have fun at a tax audit.
But in the ultimate judgment, the White Sox opted for experience over youthful excellence, and versatility over slightly better offensive production. Guillen announced Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Geoff Blum as the last additions to his 25-man roster during his Monday morning press conference at U.S. Cellular Field, with rookie right-hander Brandon McCarthy and left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder Ross Gload passed over.
Roster selections can be revisited before the start of the American League Championship Series, which could bode well for McCarthy. The lanky hurler mentioned Monday that he was informed he would be in consideration for a Game 5 start in the American League Championship Series, if the White Sox reach that point. With a day off in between Games 2 and 3 and four solid starters in front of him, a rested McCarthy could be added on as a long reliever at the very least.
"I would love to be a part of this, and know I have a chance to come in and make a difference in a series like this against a team like this," said McCarthy, who was informed of the decision by both Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper. "At the same time, this makes sense. I understand the decision. I'll go along with it. I still have the chance to come back for the second series."
"Everyone knows McCarthy did a tremendous job for us," Guillen said. "But El Duque was the best guy for us over there. If we go to the second round, then we figure out what we are going to do."
McCarthy made five extraordinary starts for the White Sox since his third and final callup from Triple-A Charlotte on Aug. 30, posting a 1.32 ERA during that stretch. He shut down the team with the most home runs in baseball in Texas, matched Minnesota's Johan Santana pitch-for-pitch in Chicago and quieted Boston's top-ranked offense at Fenway Park. But McCarthy's start on Sunday, reaching over 100 pitches in five-plus innings, would have kept him out of action at least until Game 3 against the Red Sox.
With Hernandez throwing three scoreless innings of relief in Cleveland over the weekend, as well as bouncing back on one day's rest, he held far greater value than his much-discussed 9-3 career postseason record. Guillen's thoughts on Blum over Gload stemmed from already having a one-position player on the roster in Willie Harris.
It will be easier for Guillen to utilize the speed of Harris or Pablo Ozuna late in the game if he has Blum and his ability to play throughout the infield at his disposal. Despite being a September callup, Gload could have taken Frank Thomas' spot on the roster.
"Extremely tough," said general manager Ken Williams in describing the final moves. "But we had to do what made sense more than anything, keeping ourselves in the game, in position to win."
"I'm just happy to be part of this now and see a playoff race and be part of a clinching party," added McCarthy, who will throw a couple of sideline sessions in the interim to stay sharp. "It gets you ready for a lot of things down the road."
Mound alignment: As expected, Guillen confirmed Mark Buehrle as his Game 2 starter, followed by Freddy Garcia and Jon Garland in Boston. Guillen likes the idea of Garcia pitching on the road, where he has a 10-3 record and 3.40 ERA over 17 starts. Buehrle, on the other hand, is much stronger at home.
But Buehrle doesn't put much stake in past numbers where the playoffs are concerned.
"See, I think you can throw that all out the window," Buehrle said. "I don't care what guys have done. Freddy's done good on the road; I've done good here. I think all that goes out the window when you start the postseason. Anything can happen."
Buehrle faces off against David Wells, his friend, mentor and former White Sox teammate. But he doesn't plan on hitting the town with Wells on Tuesday night before they face off in the second game.
"I don't think so -- too much family is in town," Buehrle said with a smile. "He's been around the league a little bit; he knows what he's doing. I sat next to him and just tried to pay him as much attention as I could."
The little things: How did Monday's workout start for the White Sox position players? The engaged in a little bunting practice, putting extra emphasis on every run having huge meaning during the postseason.
"You're going to win a lot of games by one run," Guillen said. "If you don't execute with your clutch hitting, then I don't think you're going to win the game."
"What we will concentrate on is getting back to basics of situational hitting," White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker added. "Make sure we are bunting early, make sure we get guys in from third. It's just the stuff we did early in the year."
Walker succinctly illustrated the White Sox strategy for success as a team. Score early, have the pitchers hold the lead and the offense eventually adds on. He also liked the laidback attitude shown by his charges this past weekend, an attitude absent while the Indians closed a 15-game lead to 1 1/2 games heading into the regular season's final week.
"We had three days to play fun, loosey-goosey type of baseball," Walker said. "Players recognized it and said this is where we should be in the playoffs. It's them saying it, not me. That's going to drive us."
Manager speak: The words of mutual admiration have started flowing from Guillen and Boston manager Terry Francona.
Here's Guillen, in his own inevitable way, on the thunderous force of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the middle of the Boston order.
"Those two guys are my favorite players," Guillen said. "If Jose is pitching, I don't want Ortiz to beat me. I will take the chance with 'the Man' [Ramirez]. If Buehrle pitches, I don't want Manny to beat me."
Francona countered on Scott Podsednik, the driving force at the top of the White Sox lineup.
"When he gets on, you want to just take a pain pill because he gives you a headache," Francona said.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.