ARLINGTON -- Through the first month of the 2009 season, Andruw Jones carried a .344 average with a .523 on-base percentage and a .781 slugging percentage. He also knocked out three home runs and drove in six as part of the Rangers lineup.
By the time the year was complete, Jones had a .214 average with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs. The veteran's strong start with the White Sox certainly is comparable to last April, but Jones believes this early success actually will be sustainable throughout the remainder of the campaign.
"No doubt," said Jones, who finished 0-for-3 with one run scored while hitting third and playing right field for the White Sox in Thursday afternoon's 7-5 victory over the Rangers. "Last year, it was a little feeling of getting ready. But after the season was over, I sat down and sort of had a talk with myself and said, 'You still have a lot of baseball left.' That motivated me more."
Better conditioning stands as one major reason behind 2010 optimism for Jones, who reported to camp 25 pounds lighter and has stayed in shape since. But as manager Ozzie Guillen told Jones, he doesn't want fit players. He wants good players.
Guillen also informed Jones back in December that if he showed up ready to play at Spring Training and then performed well, he would get more and more at-bats. That statement has played out through the season's first month.
With Texas in 2009, Jones had a mere 28 at-bats in September and October combined. He didn't hit a home run after launching two against Detroit on July 29. That version of Jones was different, though, playing only 17 games in the outfield and eight at first base. He has greater value to the White Sox by showing he still can handle the defensive role with relative ease.
"When I came to Texas, I knew what my job was going to be," Jones said. "I was going to be playing here and there when someone needs a day off. If we were facing a lefty, I'll be playing. But when I came [to the White Sox], I told them I would be ready to play every day. I knew the situation coming over here would be the same way, but with my early start and me showing them I can still play the outfield, things have worked out a little different.
"I got tired," said Jones, addressing his late dropoff with Texas. "I had a long offseason that year, too. I went to the Dominican and played and never did that before. This past offseason, I changed my program. I did a lot of running, to get my resistance up, a lot of sprints, long distance running, so I could be ready to play."
Guillen ponders other leadoff options
ARLINGTON -- In looking for a way to take pressure off of the struggling Juan Pierre, manager Ozzie Guillen thought about dropping Pierre in the order. But the White Sox manager quickly realized there was no real option to replace Pierre on a regular basis.
That thought process apparently changed following Pierre's 0-for-5 showing in Thursday's victory.
"He ain't playing tomorrow," said Guillen, who will sit the left-handed hitter with veteran southpaw Andy Pettitte starting the opener in New York. "And then we'll try and figure out the next day.
"We have a couple of righties [pitching Saturday and Sunday], move him down to the No. 9 spot to make him relax a little bit. I don't know if he's putting a lot of pressure on himself or trying to do too much, but I'll try and give him a breather, [maybe] bat him second, I don't know. Try and figure out who my leadoff hitter will be. Maybe it will let him relax a little bit."
Omar Vizquel stands as one possible leadoff replacement, but Guillen knows Vizquel is not an everyday player at 43. Mark Teahen was another candidate mentioned by Guillen, with the third baseman's .379 on-base percentage sitting third behind Jones and Paul Konerko.
Gordon Beckham was a leadoff option discussed during the offseason, before the acquisition of Pierre. But Guillen doesn't want to put Beckham in that position.
"Maybe against lefties, you might see him. But I don't think he's the typical guy to do it," Guillen said. "I want to put him [lower] in the lineup to get some RBIs, but right now, whoever is in the bottom struggles, too."
Peavy vs. Harden not quite as billed
ARLINGTON -- There was a time, two or three years ago, where a mound battle such as Wednesday night's between Rich Harden and Jake Peavy would have been the featured game of the night.
"It would have been," Harden said. "We're both trying to put it all together."
Harden earned the win Wednesday night, despite never retiring the side in order during the six innings he pitched. The right-hander walked five, hit two, gave up four hits and threw just 46 of his 87 pitches for strikes. As Guillen said, Harden seemed to make the one pitch per inning when necessary.
"Last night, this guy didn't want to pitch," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I don't care if Harden was good or not. He didn't want to be there. I told [White Sox bench coach] Joey [Cora], 'Can he wait till the fifth inning to get him out?' I believe [Texas manager] Ron Washington was thinking the same way."
Peavy got lit up for five runs in the first but settled down to allow two hits over the next 5 1/3 innings. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski said a little in-game adjustment was made with where he was sitting behind the plate to help Peavy, but the right-handed hurler admitted he remains a work in progress as he tries to implement changes in delivery mechanics put in place before his last start against Tampa Bay.
"After the first inning, we let the ball move and work for us," Peavy said. "The bottom line is I'm still searching to find those mechanics. I got quite a bit better as you saw with location and with stuff. It's coming, but the end result is we are trying to win."
"We talk about it 24 hours a day, what we need to do and where we need to get to," Pierzynski said. "I hope he takes a positive out of this outing and not a negative. I hope he looks at it and says, 'That's a start.' Those last five innings were awesome."
Pierzynski explained how Peavy had a good slider after the first. He mixed his pitches and changed speeds effectively.
"That's what he needs to do," Pierzynski said.
Third to first
The White Sox did not issue a walk in Thursday's 7-5 victory, leaving them tied with Kansas City atop the American League at 94 walks allowed. Jake Peavy ranks second with 20 walks, while Randy Williams tops all AL relievers with 14, five of which have been intentional. ... Matt Thornton picked up his first hold of the season Thursday and just the second White Sox hold this season. ... Three stolen bases Thursday gave the White Sox the AL lead.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.