GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Pitching in his first Cactus League game since March 12, White Sox reliever Jesse Crain couldn't have been happier with his results.
Crain, who has been sidelined by a slightly strained right oblique, needed just 11 pitches to complete a perfect eighth during the 3-1 victory over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Crain struck out Dee Gordon and will return to the mound on Saturday against the Rockies.
"I was healthy the whole time and felt good and probably the best I've thrown this spring so far, as far as command, down in the zone and getting out there," Crain said. "Hopefully this is a sign of getting back to normal."
Bullpen locks down win but not spots yet
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox bullpen alignment from the seventh inning through the ninth of Thursday's 3-1 victory over the Dodgers had a regular-season feel to it.
Southpaw Hector Santiago started the seventh and faced left-handed-hitting Andre Ethier. He was replaced by Addison Reed after Ethier reached via an error, and Reed was followed by Jesse Crain in the eighth and Matt Thornton to close out the victory. It seems like a winning setup, but manager Robin Ventura cautioned not to read too much into the order in which these pitchers were used at Camelback Ranch.
"Yeah, we're not making any decisions today off that," said Ventura of this crisp victory played in two hours and 34 minutes. "But I'm happy with all of them.
"Again, we're putting them in there to get their innings and get them work. None of that could mean anything in terms of where they exactly were today."
They both have had extremely impressive springs, earning notice from their teammates as well as Ventura.
"Yeah, it looks good," Crain said. "Whatever order they do it, they've thrown the ball really well and it will be exciting to see what happens in the regular season."
"Addison has been amazing all spring. Hector has been just outstanding," said Thornton of the rookies who completed back-to-back throwing days Thursday. "Both are throwing strikes and throwing offspeed [pitches] for strikes and going right after guys. They are fun to watch."
If Thornton is selected as closer, he seems poised to bounce back from last April's 0-for-4 start in save situations. Thornton will pitch Sunday in Arizona and Tuesday in Houston, continuing to work on his offspeed stuff to go with his high-octane fastball.
And the veteran southpaw doesn't need any advance warning to take on the closer responsibilities.
"You can tell me Opening Day. I don't care," said Thornton. "It doesn't matter to me. They will figure that out here soon enough."
Sale making hitters earn way on base
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Striking out Matt Kemp three times in six innings during Thursday's 3-1 victory for the White Sox over the Dodgers stands as an impressive accomplishment for Chris Sale, even in Cactus League action.
Sale fanned seven and didn't issue a walk Thursday, giving him 22 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings.
"Walks kill you every time and that is something I really focused on," said Sale, who threw 61 of his 86 pitches for strikes. "If they get on base, they have to earn it. I was told from a very young age to not give them anything and that's something I paid attention to a lot."
Sale will pitch Tuesday during an exhibition game in Houston and then opens a series against the Indians at Progressive Field on April 9, beginning his career as a Major League starter.
"It's awesome just having a good game in general," said Sale, who allowed one run on four hits. "I was happy to leave here on the right foot."
Rios scratched from lineup; Lillibridge OK
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One small miscommunication in right-center during the second-inning of Wednesday's 13-2 loss to the Padres ended up affecting right fielder Alex Rios and center fielder Brent Lillibridge.
Rios was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday's 3-1 victory over the Dodgers because of a slightly strained left Achilles. The move was a trainer's decision, as Rios wanted to play, and he's scheduled to return Friday night in Surprise, Ariz., against the Royals.
Lillibridge reported no pain in his left foot after he was stepped on by Rios while making a sliding attempt for Jeremy Hermida's double. Lillibridge felt the force of the cleat when he was first hit and then felt a sharp pain while swinging in his second at-bat. He left the game after four innings, got it checked and treated and returned to Thursday's lineup.
"It feels a little tight but no pain," said Lillibridge, who started at first on Thursday. "It was a little scare. I don't want anything crazy happening."
Third to first
Alexei Ramirez didn't watch Yoenis Cespedes' first career home run live from Japan at around 4 a.m. Arizona time. But he still felt pride for his countryman, for whom he has predicted a big rookie year with the A's since his arrival, when checking out the replay.
"I've said it from the beginning because I personally know him and played with him," said Ramirez through translator and White Sox director of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "So it's one of those that I know his ability and I know his character and I knew he would be able to do things like he's going to do."
The White Sox will not face Yu Darvish in Texas during their first series of 2012. Instead, they get Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison.