ST. PETERSBURG -- With the White Sox holding a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Friday's 4-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field, closer Bobby Jenks was surprisingly absent from the game.
Jenks actually wasn't even warming up in the bullpen. So what was the reason for his absence, according to bench coach and Friday's acting White Sox manager Joey Cora?
"Since I was the manager today, I never liked Jenks," said Cora with a wry smile.
Cora went on to explain how Jenks tweaked his troublesome right calf during pregame running and was unavailable. He is listed as day-to-day.
"He came out during batting practice, said he felt something in the calf," said Cora. "Supposedly it wasn't as bad as when it first occurred [last year], so we'll see what happens."
That calf injury ended Jenks' 2009 season after a blown save on Sept. 17 at Seattle. For the immediate future in 2010, Matt Thornton, who earned the save Friday, will serve as closer, with Sergio Santos joining J.J. Putz in the setup capacity.
"He can go soft early and hard late," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Santos' highly advanced learning curve. "He's much more polished than his time in the big leagues tells you. He's doing a great job and that's what has allowed us to put him in games like that."
Vizquel gets the defensive call
ST. PETERSBURG -- Mark Teahen's continued defensive funk at third base has led to the White Sox using Omar Vizquel as a late-inning replacement. Vizquel has not committed an error since Sept. 14, 2008, at San Diego, a stretch of 86 straight games.
"[Manager Ozzie Guillen] decided to go that route for a little while," fill-in manager Joey Cora said. "Having a Gold Glover on the bench in the ninth inning, why not? Omar is going to catch it. He hasn't made an error in like two years, something like that, anywhere he's been. It's no secret Teahen is having a little bit of trouble defensively, but hopefully he keeps working, gets better and we don't have to do that.
"In the meanwhile, Ozzie decided that's what we are going to do. If we have a lead in the ninth inning, Omar will be out there, if he's not starting."
Cora puts in quite a bit of extra work with the White Sox infielders in regard to defensive improvement. He believes Teahen, who is tied with Alexei Ramirez for the team lead in errors at eight, has what it takes to raise his defensive level at third base.
"Hopefully, he does. He works very hard every day," Cora said. "Hard work always pays off. I believe in that. Hopefully, he does get better, and he knows he needs to get better.
"It is what it is sometimes, but he understands he needs to get better for us to have confidence in him and play every day and even be out there the whole game. He's working hard."
A different feeling without Guillen
ST. PETERSBURG -- The entire White Sox coaching staff is heavily involved in the team's day-to-day operation, and manager Ozzie Guillen has the utmost confidence in the crew that works with him. But even with that confidence in place, it's still a different feel around the team when Guillen is gone, as he was on Friday to attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Ozney.
"He's the face of the franchise. He's the guy who brings energy every day," said White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, serving as manager on Friday in St. Petersburg. "It is different. He knows the in and outs of the team. He knows all of you. He knows how to deal with all of you. He deals with umpires.
"That could be different. I don't want to get thrown out. I don't make that much money like he does. He's the man of the team. It's going to make a difference, especially in the clubhouse and the dugout, the way he handles himself and the way he handles everybody, the energy he brings every day."
Depending on the post-graduation celebration, Cora said Guillen might make it back from Miami late in Friday's contest with the Rays.
"Maybe he shows up at 7:30 or 8, who knows," Cora said. "He's going to try. It depends what happens after the graduation. He might make it for the ninth inning and make a decision. Hopefully, we can hold the fort for a little while."
Konerko likes Blackhawks in five games
ST. PETERSBURG -- Paul Konerko still remembers a trip to the United Center to watch the Chicago Blackhawks in action during the layoff between the 2005 American League Championship Series and World Series.
The ardent hockey fan also remembers the shock of what he witnessed.
"I had been to a million [Phoenix] Coyotes games and I had never been to a [Blackhawks] game, so I was pumped to go," Konerko said. "I couldn't get over how bad the atmosphere was."
Just like the rest of the throng of Blackhawks fans thrilled at the team's pursuit of the Stanley Cup, Konerko knows that atmosphere has changed quite a bit in five years. The Blackhawks play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Monday evening, needing four wins to capture their first NHL championship since 1961.
Konerko attended one playoff game against Nashville and another regular-season game, getting a first-hand look at the return of the roar in the United Center.
"It's nice to see it back, the total 180," Konerko said. "It's like night and day [from 2005]. That's just great."
Asked to make a prediction, Konerko picked the Blackhawks to win in five games.
"They might lose Game 1. I don't know why I say that," Konerko said. "They are just the better team. The Western Conference has been better all year."
As far as potential championship celebrations within Chicago, Konerko couldn't give a definitive answer about where a Stanley Cup crown would rank with the Bulls, Bears, and of course the White Sox in 2005.
"We had a real long drought for a World Series in Chicago, but that [Stanley Cup] drought for the Blackhawks is pretty sizable too," Konerko said. "The good news, and nothing is guaranteed, but it looks like they are going to be contenders regardless of what happens. They have guys locked up on a good young team. It looks like they will have some fun with that over the next few years."
White Sox release reliever Embree
ST. PETERSBURG -- Cross Alan Embree off the list of possible left-handed relief options for the White Sox. The 40-year-old had not impressed during his six relief appearances with Triple-A Charlotte, posting an 8.22 ERA. He appeared in 39 games with the 2001 White Sox, finishing with a 5.03 ERA.
Third to first
A.J. Pierzynski, who had the night off Friday but will catch the next two games against the Rays, spent part of the pregame schmoozing with Florida football coach Urban Meyer. Pierzynski is an ardent supporter of the Gators' athletics programs. ... Sergio Santos has thrown scoreless baseball in 18 of his 19 outings. His ERA sits at 0.50 following Friday's 4-2 victory, in which he needed eight pitches to retire the two batters he faced in the eighth inning. ... Andruw Jones has reached base safely in 28 of his last 30 games, but his last home run came on May 5 against the Royals. ... Juan Pierre took over the Major League lead with his 19th stolen base Friday. ... Freddy Garcia's seven strikeouts Friday were a season high.