CHICAGO -- With four games prior to this weekend's three-game series at Wrigley Field, Paul Konerko smiled at the early arrival of the first Cubs-White Sox question. But the White Sox captain tackled the question anyway.
"About the only thing I can say is that they're pitching really well," said Konerko of the Cubs. "It seems like every time I turn it on, guys are throwing the ball well.
"I've obviously been in those series a long time. They're always good because it always breaks it up for the guys. It's not the playoffs, but it's kind of somewhere in between the regular season and playoffs. It always kind of has that feel, it's heightened."
Konerko is not a fan of this rivalry being played in May, stating that it should be saved for the summer. But having the three games at Wrigley this weekend at least should avoid some of the traffic coming from the NATO Summit at McCormick Place on the city's south side.
"What's good for me is I live closer, I might be on foot the whole time," said a smiling Konerko. "I don't have to come south at all."
Thornton unable to pitch out of 'rut'
CHICAGO -- May has not been a kind month to White Sox reliever Matt Thornton.
Factoring in Sunday's effort in the team's 9-1 loss to the Royals and Monday's scoreless eighth in the 7-5 victory over the Tigers, the hard-throwing left-hander has allowed six runs on nine hits over his last 3 2/3 innings and six appearances. Thornton's problems began with Travis Hafner's two-run, ninth-inning homer on May 2, continued with Jhonny Peralta's walk-off homer to right-center on May 4 and culminated with a 1-0 lead turning into a 2-1 deficit after he entered in the series finale against the Royals.
Thornton's mantra always has been to not let any short period of struggles become too prolonged but understands this period has been long enough and detrimental enough to the team.
"I've gotten two blown saves and three losses in the last week," said Thornton, who shares late-inning responsibilities with right-handers Addison Reed and Nate Jones and left-hander Hector Santiago. "That's the worst part about it right there, the situation I'm pitching in and failing.
"I know I'm going to have ups and downs throughout the year, but it's pretty frustrating that I've had a run of about 10 days of not getting the job done. It's one of those things where I just have to focus better and make better pitches when I'm ahead of hitters.
"It's a matter of execution, executing a big pitch for me," Thornton said. "I've been throwing the ball pretty well actually and making some good pitches. But when I do make a mistake, it's getting hit and hit hard and costing us games."
Thornton lamented giving up Peralta's homer on an 0-2 pitch and then Johnny Giavotella's go-ahead double in the seventh Sunday on a 1-2 pitch. He also wasn't pleased with the walk issued to left-handed hitting Jarrod Dyson prior to Giavotella's hit, giving a free pass to a guy he wants to make put the ball in play.
All of these issues add up to Thornton's current 4.30 ERA after ending April at 0.82.
"For me, if you have a bad game, you want to bounce out of that and string together a bunch of good ones and go have seven, eight, nine good games in a row before something bad happens again," Thornton said. "I'm in a rut right now.
"This is about getting back out there and attacking hitters and getting ahead of them. It's a huge key for me getting ahead, making them put the ball in play, getting contact and trying to get double plays."
Struggling Ramirez back in the lineup
CHICAGO -- Alexei Ramirez took his first day off of the 2012 season on Sunday, but it was not a choice made by the White Sox shortstop.
"To be honest, I don't like to take a day off. Whether I'm playing well or playing bad, I like to play every day," said Ramirez through translator and White Sox director of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "But it's something that [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] came to me and just wanted me to have a day off."
Ramirez returned to face Detroit on Monday, hitting seventh in the order. It could be argued that Ramirez hasn't really hit in any lineup spot this season, carrying a .209 average with one homer and 14 RBIs. But the notorious slow starter feels as if he's primed to get going on a hot streak, possibly starting one with two hits and two runs scored during Monday's 7-5 victory over the Tigers.
"It's not even that," Ramirez said. "It's just things haven't been working out the way I want them to. What can you do but keep on going out there and waiting for it to click?
"You know, I actually get to look at my swings on video from the last few years and my swing looks the same. It looks good. It's just getting a little bit of luck and something at some point will click."
Crain returns to Chicago after two rehab outings
CHICAGO -- Jesse Crain was in the White Sox clubhouse Monday after two scoreless Minor League rehab outings over the weekend with Triple-A Charlotte. He was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday morning, about four hours before Chicago was to play Detroit.
The White Sox designated left-hander Eric Stults for assignment to make room on the roster. Stults, 32, had no record with a 2.70 ERA in two games, one of them a start.
"I was actually pretty sore on Saturday, just body-wise," Crain said after pitching two innings for the Knights. "I hadn't pitched in a game for three weeks and so when you throw in a game, it's a lot different than throwing a bullpen.
"It was good to get out there and throw again Sunday to make sure everything was good to go. I feel good, ready to go. The two outings out there showed me I was over it and didn't feel it at all."
Crain was bothered by a right oblique strain during Spring Training, but had been on the disabled list with a left oblique strain retroactive to April 21.
Third to first
Chris Sale threw a normal bullpen session Monday and gave a thumbs up when asked how he felt.
Class A Winston-Salem outfielder Brady Shoemaker was named Carolina League Batter of the Week. He hit .556 with a homer and three RBIs over five games. John Danks is 0-3 with an 8.34 ERA over four home starts this season, after allowing five runs in three-plus innings during a no-decision in Monday's 7-5 victory over Detroit on Monday.
The White Sox have a 6-8 record in this stretch of 15 straight played against the AL Central.