ANAHEIM -- It has been two years since Nate Jones served as a Minor League starting pitcher, but the 26-year-old right-hander continues to reap the benefits from those 28 trips to the mound.
Jones was part of the 2010 rotation for Class A Winston-Salem, posting an 11-6 record with a 4.08 ERA over 152 1/3 innings. That stint taught him about being a pitcher, not just a thrower with a 99 or 100 mph fastball, which was the organizational intent behind using him in that manner after he worked 45 games in relief during the previous season.
"When I started, I had to throw all my secondary pitches like the slider, curveball and changeup," Jones said. "It did nothing but help me develop those pitches and get a feel for those pitches.
"I carried it on last year in Double-A when I relieved, mixed them all in right away. Luckily enough, I've been able to do that here as well."
As one of the true surprises among the American League crop of rookies, Jones has tossed 19 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over his last 18 appearances to mark the longest such current streak in the AL. His ERA has dropped from 3.45 to 2.44, to go with his 8-0 record and 59 strikeouts over 66 1/3 innings.
Pointing to the slider as a strong reason for success, getting opposing hitters away from his high-octane fastball, Jones talked about developing that pitch by mixing it in as a starter. That plan two years ago now is paying dividends for the American League Central leaders.
"If you can throw it for strikes, most of the time they just look at it because they are looking for a heater," said Jones of the slider. "But all I wanted to do since Spring Training was just prove I could throw strikes, make the team and help the team any way I can."
Ventura balks at call, ejected for fourth time
ANAHEIM -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura was given his fourth ejection of the 2012 campaign, this one handed out by first-base umpire Ed Hickox in the fourth inning of Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Angels.
The extended argument was over a balk call made by Hickox, with runners on first and second and nobody out. Jose Quintana made a pickoff throw on Chris Iannetta at first off of a set play, with first baseman Paul Konerko stepping in to catch the ball to the right of Iannetta and then trying to run him down with the tag.
Ventura played down the call, saying it didn't have anything to do with the game and it's a play everyone runs. Hickox was a bit more expansive on his reasoning, telling a pool reporter that Quintana didn't throw directly to first base but eight to 10 feet toward the second baseman.
"Konerko was not breaking until after the pitcher threw the ball, and then he was just trying to catch the ball," Hickox said. "So in my judgment, there was no attempt to retire the runner.
"Any time the first baseman is on the bag and the pitcher throws directly to first base, then obviously it's nothing. They do it 100 times a game. But if you're playing in front or in back, and from my view and my judgment, is that Konerko just went to try to catch the ball from going down the line."
Dunn, Rios, Peavy do a 180, and so do Sox
ANAHEIM -- The proposition seemed to be a fairly basic one to understand.
If Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy, three highly accomplished veterans, returned to previous career form in 2012, then it would be a simple enough course correction from an overall underachieving 2011 campaign to propel the White Sox into American League Central contention. And 150 games later, that theory basically has held true.
"I'm just not so sure how everybody else didn't see what we saw," said Peavy, who has reached at least 30 starts and at least 200 innings pitched for the first time since his 2007 National League Cy Young effort. "We all had good years in the past. I don't know if everybody just thought we were all officially done. ...
"I was coming back off of an injury and Alex had some stuff going on, as well as Adam. There's no excuse for the way that things went, but at the same time, we were the same team that was predicted to win this division a year ago."
And while Dunn, Peavy and Rios have put the 2011 struggles behind them, even with a few questions still popping up about their comeback this far into the next season, they haven't exactly put together career years. Rios has produced the biggest breakthrough, with the 31-year-old veteran looking to hit .300 for the second time in his career and on the verge of reaching single-season highs in home runs and RBIs.
Dunn has 39 homers and 90 RBIs, slowed recently by a strained right oblique, but still on par with his seasonal averages of 38 and 96. His .207 average is well below a career average of .240.
As for Peavy, he has been a steadying force in the White Sox rotation if not exactly their most successful pitcher, record-wise. Having these three with the potential to return to form had the team excited even back in February.
"We lost Mark Buehrle, but we added a guy like Chris Sale in the starting rotation," Peavy said. "We had some young guys in the bullpen, but we love their arms. We thought that would be the biggest question mark, if those guys would be who they have been.
"I remember hearing we are going to lose 95 games, and I'm going, 'I'm going to be healthy. I knew what kind of shape Dunner was in and Alex was ready to play.' We took it personally and we talked to Robin [Ventura] in Spring Training about what we hoped to do and who we hoped to be for the team as far as on the field and off the field."
Ventura says Ramirez, Beckham deserve Gold
ANAHEIM -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura and his coaching staff made their choices for American League Gold Glove winners during the team's last homestand. They were not allowed to vote for their own players, but Ventura certainly believes shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham are worthy of their first such honor.
"We can't vote for our own guys, but we can talk about them. Gordon has done a great job," Ventura said. "Alexei has been right in the middle and gets to a lot of stuff. They've been great up the middle. It's one thing we've had all year. They've played Gold Glove-caliber defense."
Ventura mentioned that his voting criteria centered solely on who had been best defensively at each position, with no influence being added for numbers on offense, as is suspected at times. Beckham's .991 fielding percentage and Ramirez's .981 mark have contributed to a White Sox team allowing the fewest unearned runs in baseball at 26.
"You want to be strong up the middle," Ventura said. "For us, that's a plus for those guys playing up the middle every day."
Third to first
After sitting two games in the midst of a 2-for-25 slump, leadoff man Alejandro De Aza has gone 10-for-22 in his last five starts. An adjustment to De Aza's swing has made the difference.
Alex Rios produced his team-leading 14th three-hit game this season during Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Angels.
The White Sox are 25-for-139 (.180) with runners in scoring position over the last 16 games.
Shortstop Alexei Ramirez celebrated his 31st birthday on Saturday.