Notes: Uribe learning patience at plate
After only 13 walks in '06, shortstop already has nine
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen judges the great patience shown at the plate by Juan Uribe during the first six weeks of the 2007 season as a "cup is half-full" sort of situation.
But the White Sox manager is also cognizant of how Uribe's free-swinging ways could cause that cup of optimism to spill before too long.
"Yesterday impressed me a little bit more because he was taking pitches," said Guillen of Uribe. "He was patient at the plate.
"I kind of get excited but I don't know how long that patience is going to be. This kid strikes out a lot."
Uribe found himself hitting second in Guillen's lineup for the series finale against the Royals, marking his second straight day in that particular spot, after finishing a triple short of hitting for the cycle on Saturday. The patience at the plate exhibited by Uribe, though, was not unique to Saturday's lineup switch.
After drawing only 13 walks and fanning 82 times during the entire 2006 campaign, Uribe already has drawn nine walks and struck out on 18 occasions in 2007. Uribe picked up a key two-out walk against Minnesota starter Ramon Ortiz with the bases loaded in the first inning of Wednesday's contest, keeping alive what turned out to be a four-run rally. That victory also marked the start of the South Siders' current winning streak.
"If he didn't take that walk, we score one run there and the thought on the bench could have been, 'Here we go again,'" said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker of Uribe's key walk at the Metrodome. "Sometimes the walk is the biggest thing you can do in a game.
"I'm extremely impressed with the quality of his at-bats so far. I think it's a better focus level. He's always given us good at-bats with runners in scoring position. But there have been times where he tried to do too much and wouldn't accept the walk."
A .324 on-base percentage for Uribe was better than any White Sox regular aside from Scott Podsednik (.378) and Ryan Sweeney (.364), and this duo has combined for 62 at-bats. Guillen and Walker don't expect a 90-walk season from Uribe, not when his previous season-high checks in at 34.
They simply hope this improved patience and pitch selection help Uribe come closer to achieving his immense potential.
"For us to get better, he needs to get on base for the big boys," Guillen said. "Sometimes, we talk to him about it because Uribe doesn't even know how good he is."
Reverse the curse: A somewhat entertaining partial explanation for Mark Buehrle's three straight missed attempts at picking up career victory No. 100 has surfaced, and it can be traced to teammate Jose Contreras. Three starts ago, Contreras was asked to remove a bracelet in between pitches so as not to distract the hitters.
The bracelet had a spiritual connection to the religion of Santeria, practiced by Guillen and now by Contreras. According to Guillen, the bracelet should not be touched by anyone not a part of Santeria, so he put the bracelet in a towel and gave the towel to Buehrle to put in Contreras' locker. The bracelet slipped in the transition, falling to the ground, with Buehrle picking it up to Guillen's cries of horror.
"Ozzie started screaming, 'No. No. How's Heath Phillips doing in the Minors? Get Buehrle out of here,'" said Buehrle with a laugh. "I guess it's all voodoo or religious stuff. He said don't touch it, and it was too late."
Buehrle asked Guillen if he could convince Contreras to get rid of the curse after he left the field following Saturday's 114-pitch effort. Guillen said Sunday he had something planned to improve Buehrle's fortunes.
"It's something we believe in our religion," said Guillen with a smile of the bracelet. "Buehrle said, 'I don't believe in that,' but I was just warning him."
Straight talk: Jim Thome planned to leave for Columbus on Monday afternoon to take part in his first Minor League rehab contest as part of Triple-A Charlotte's roster on Tuesday night. Thome will spend four days in Columbus, and probably one day in Toledo, before traveling back to the White Sox for next week's three-game series against Oakland.
Guillen did not throw batting practice to Thome on Sunday, as he did on Saturday, but watched from behind the batting cage. The White Sox manager said he liked Thome's Saturday session better, but trusted in his designated hitter's assessment that he was feeling strong and pain-free.
"Only thing I can do is go by what they say," Guillen said. "Please don't lie to me or my trainers. Make sure you tell us the truth."
Guillen strongly adheres to this to ensure a minor injury to a key player such as Thome doesn't turn into a season-ending malady. Guillen gave another example through his talk on Saturday with Toby Hall before the catcher left on his own rehab assignment.
Hall told Guillen he would be back in one week. Guillen said on Sunday that Hall's timetable was not completely realistic.
"I don't want to throw him under the bus. But he doesn't make that call," said Guillen of Hall. "Do we want him to be here? Of course. Do we need him? Yes. But he looked like he was throwing heavy balls to the bases.
"When [Hall is] ready to throw the ball better, [he] will be on the ballclub. That's a guarantee."
Helping hand: Close to 150 students from the Chicago Futabakai Japanese School in Arlington Heights were guests of White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi for Sunday's contest.
Around the horn: Sunday's lineup, featuring Pablo Ozuna leading off, Uribe hitting second, Sweeney in left field, Luis Terrero in center and Gustavo Molina catching, was the 25th different arrangement used by Guillen this year. "That's what they pay me for," said Guillen with a smile of his lineup changes. "It's easy to make the same lineup every day." ... Darin Erstad's day off in the Royals' series finale is part of Guillen's plan to have him healthy and fresh throughout the season. ... Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Billy Pierce becoming the first member of the White Sox to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A life-sized sculpture of the standout left-handed hurler will be unveiled at U.S. Cellular Field prior to the game against Detroit on July 23.
Down on the farm: After watching his average hover below the .200 mark for the season's first month, Josh Fields now is hitting .254 after stroking three hits during Triple-A Charlotte's 4-3 victory over Norfolk on Saturday. Charlie Haeger won his second straight start, allowing two runs on four hits over seven innings ... Kris Honel worked six scoreless innings, striking out five and walking two, but finished with a no-decision in Double-A Birmingham's 2-1 loss to Mississippi ... Chris Carter knocked out his 14th double and sixth home run during Class A Winston-Salem's 9-2 shellacking of Savannah.
On-deck: With his first career victory taken care of Wednesday in Minneapolis, John Danks (1-4, 4.33) now faces the daunting challenge presented by the Yankees' offense in Tuesday's series opener at 7:11 p.m. CT.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.