CHICAGO -- With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, Mark Buehrle is in the midst of one of the better runs of his illustrious 12-year career, all of which has been spent with the White Sox.
But the left-hander's streak of limiting opponents to three or fewer runs in 16 straight starts hasn't played its way into Buehrle's thoughts regarding his future after this season.
"It doesn't matter if I'm pitching good or bad, it's not going to change the way I feel about next year, whether it's playing or retiring, coming back here or going somewhere else," Buehrle said. "So it hasn't changed my mind just because I'm throwing the ball well."
At 32 years old, Buehrle has posted a 3.21 ERA this season to go along with his 8-5 record. His current ERA is more than a run lower than his 4.28 mark last season, and is within striking distance of his career-best 3.12 ERA, which came in 2005 when he helped lead the White Sox to a World Series victory.
"To be honest with you, I don't think about that," Buehrle said regarding his recent streak. "I go out there trying to win. Like I've always said, it doesn't matter if it's the last game of the season and we're 20 games out, I go out there and try to win the game. I hate losing, and I don't like to get hit around, so that's why I've always said I just go out there and try to win every game and get every guy out."
Rios keeping long view during struggles
CHICAGO -- Alex Rios knows he is having the worst season of his career, but at the same time he also knows it's just that -- one season.
"This is just a bad season," the struggling center fielder said. "That doesn't mean this is the end of my career. Obviously, this is a terrible season and nobody wants to have a season like that, but I know what I've done in the past and what I can do in the future."
Rios, who was not in Thursday's starting lineup, is hitting just .207 -- well below his .275 career average -- and has just six home runs and 24 RBIs this season. He went through a similar slump when he first arrived in Chicago after being claimed off waivers from Toronto on August 10, 2009.
After hitting just .199 while playing in 41 games that season, Rios turned things around from his dreadful two months in Chicago in 2009 and hit .284 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2010. Now on pace for easily his worst batting average for an entire season -- his previous low was .247 in 2009 -- Rios is looking to find his way out of another extended slump.
"It gets to your head," he said. "It's mentally and physically draining. It gets to a point where you almost lose your confidence in yourself, but I haven't gotten to that point yet, because I know I can do a good job on the field."
More recently, fans at U.S. Cellular Field have started showing their displeasure, not just with Rios' offense, but also his play defensively. In Saturday's loss to the Red Sox, Rios allowed Josh Reddick to score from first base on a single to center field after taking too long to get the ball in and then making a throw that was tough to handle for second baseman Gordon Beckham.
Rios was booed again in Wednesday night's loss to the Yankees when a Mark Teixeira base hit skipped past him all the way to the wall, allowing two runs to score on what turned into a triple for Teixeira.
"I mean, you hear them, but you focus on the game," Rios said of the boos. "That's something that you have to deal with and be strong about it. People have to understand that sometimes we're going to make mistakes, it's part of the game.
"And sometimes we're not going to get to balls that are hit to us, and we're not going to try to make an attempt to dive on a ball that you don't need to dive for because you know you're not going to get it."
Konerko returns to lineup as DH
CHICAGO -- After missing the last three games with a bruised left calf, Paul Konerko was batting third in Ozzie Guillen's lineup as the White Sox designated hitter for Thursday's series finale against the Yankees.
Konerko told Guillen he was ready to return after taking practice swings on Thursday, but Guillen also didn't want to rush Konerko back into playing the field, and said he would likely hold off on that for a few more days.
"We need him, I think we need him back," Guillen said of Konerko, who leads the team in home runs (25) and RBIs (76). "I think the players, when they see him in the lineup, I think they get pumped up a little bit."
Konerko went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles in his return Thursday night, but admitted after the game he still felt a lot of pain in his leg while running and said he wasn't ready to return to the field yet.
"Hitting-wise, I felt not bad. I felt maybe 80 or 90 percent," Konerko said. "Running killed. I don't know. I would have thought it would be the other way around. Running laterally was really painful. Just keep working to get that out, that's all you can do."
De Aza just getting started
CHICAGO -- It took Alejandro De Aza just one at-bat after being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte last week to hit his first career home run and, after going 4-for-4 on Wednesday, only a week to record his first career four-hit game.
After starting his last two games in right field, De Aza was back in center field for Thursday's night game against the Yankees, batting eighth. For the time being, though, manager Ozzie Guillen is still waiting to see if the 27-year-old, who hit .300 (9-for-30) in a brief stint with the White Sox last season and entered play Thursday off to a 5-for-14 (.357) start this season, is capable of being an everyday player at the Major League level.
"In the big leagues? I don't know. Why? Because I never see him play every day," Guillen said. "Can he play every day? We'll find out, I'll give him a shot. But I don't know if he can play every day."
De Aza went 1-for-3 Thursday night and was the catalyst behind the first White Sox run. After singling in the third, De Aza stole second, moved to third on a Brent Morel single and then scored on a Juan Pierre sacrifice fly.
Third to first
Thursday's game marked the fourth straight without drawing a walk for the White Sox, which is the longest stretch the team has gone without a walk since also doing it in four straight from Aug. 5-8, 1968.
The White Sox didn't lead once in the four-game series with New York. The last time they led in a game was when they held a 3-2 advantage after the sixth inning of Sunday's game against the Red Sox.
With his 1-for-3 night on Thursday, Juan Pierre has reached base safely in 23 of his last 24 games.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.