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Alex Rios, Paul Konerko sit as White Sox fall to Royals

Dayan Viciedo takes hefty cut pitch by Jeremy Guthrie second hits dirt. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Dayan Viciedo takes a hefty cut at a pitch by Jeremy Guthrie in the second and hits the dirt. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 10, 2012 1:52PM

As the White Sox worked through the aches and growing pains of their starting rotation, their everyday lineup remained intact and stayed relatively healthy.

With a serviceable bench at best, keeping the starting nine on the field is key to staying in first place in the American League Central through the last two months. In the last two weeks, though, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, center fielder Alejandro De Aza, third baseman Kevin Youkilis and shortstop Alexei Ramirez have missed games because of injuries. On Wednesday night, just when Youkilis (right knee) and De Aza (back) returned after missing one and two games, respectively, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko sat out a 2-1 loss to the Royals before 25,151 fans with physical problems of their own.

Rios was out with a stiff back and Konerko had a mild concussion.

Konerko wasn’t with team in the dugout during the game, causing speculation about his condition — although manager Robin Ventura said Konerko and Rios could have played.

While Ventura downplayed Rios’ and Konerko’s issues, Sox fans will breathe easier when they see them back in action. A bad back can quickly turn a .318 hitter into ordinary, but Rios didn’t seem concerned.

“The big picture is you want everyone to play well in September,’’ Ventura said before the game. “It’s a long season. We want to win ­every game but again we’re looking at the long haul of this and it’s difficult and that’s what makes it a hard season, is guys playing every day. That’s why you have a 25-man roster. You’ve got to use everybody. We’ve got guys at ages where we need to give them a break.”

Konerko, 36, has received treatment for his back during the course of the season, has dealt with ­various hand and wrist issues and on Tuesday appeared to take a glancing blow from Jarrod Dyson’s elbow to the temple area on a play at first base.

With an off day Thursday, Konerko and Rios will get at least two days off. The Sox open a three-game series against the Oakland A’s on Friday.

“Alex and Paul can play but it’s a good time for them to get their break because it is nagging stuff,” Ventura said.

Rios said his back has bothered him for a couple of days. He appeared to aggravate it swinging the bat on Tuesday night. But he promised it’s no big deal.

“It’s been going on for a few days, but yesterday it got stiffer,’’ Rios said. “But I don’t think it’s something that’s going to keep me out of that lineup for more than a day or so. I’ll be fine.

“It’s something that you should just take a day and tomorrow we have a day off so that will be two days. Then, I’m going to come back better and I don’t have to take any other days off.’’

Without Rios and Konerko, the Sox were held to five hits and no runs through eight innings against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who came in with an 0-3 record and 7.71 ERA.

Rookie left-hander Jose Quintana, pitching on eight days of rest, allowed two-out homers to Mike Moustakas in the second inning and Salvador Perez in the fourth. Quintana gave up two runs on five hits over seven-plus innings.

The Sox needed a victory to extend their streaks of winning four consecutive series and five in a row at home.

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