Spotlight on rookies, Konerko in final week as Sox edge Jays 3-2
BY DAN MCGRATH Staff Reporter September 23, 2013 10:24PM
Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox
SOX AT INDIANS
The facts: 6:05 p.m., Ch. 26, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The starters: Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.53 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.39).
THE REST OF SERIES
Wednesday: 6:05 p.m., CSN, 670-AM. Dylan Axelrod (4-10, 5.72) vs. Danny Salazar (1-3, 3.09).
Updated: October 25, 2013 6:22AM
Games like Monday’s are why Paul Konerko might decide he has had enough after 15 major-league seasons.
The White Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 in the makeup of a June 12 rainout. At most, a third of the announced crowd of 19,122 was in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field, and no wonder — the teams are a combined 46 games under .500 and 52 games off the lead in their respective divisions.
But it was a night to remember for 23-year-old infielder Marcus Semien, who hit his first major-league home run in the second inning, legged out an infield hit in the third and made a nice fielding play at third base after Toronto put the tying and go-ahead runs on in the eighth.
“He’s a baseball player,” manager Robin Ventura said of Semien, who’s hitting .306 in 49 at-bats since his Sept. 1 call-up from Class AAA Charlotte. “He has good instincts. He knows what’s going on out there. It was a special night for a guy who’s trying to prove he can play up here.”
Avisail Garcia hit his sixth homer to help Jose Quintana to his ninth victory as the Sox’ 2014 roster begins to take shape with a younger, more athletic look — Garcia is 22 and Quintana is 24. Whether that roster will include Konerko — who’s 37 and in the final year of his contract — is the only real intrigue remaining in the final week of the team’s worst season since 1976. And Konerko is keeping his thoughts to himself.
“I haven’t talked to him,” Ventura said. “That conversation will take place above me. It’s his decision, and no one can make it for him.”
Ventura said he knew it was time to go at 37, so he didn’t do much agonizing when he retired in 2004 after 16 seasons.
“It felt gradual, but it was actually pretty sudden — you just know,” he said. “The older you get, the harder it is to put in the work. I was with the Dodgers, and I was pretty much a bench player by then, but I had to play about four days in a row for some reason, and after that, I knew I was done, physically and mentally. And I was good with it.”
The Sox playing errorless ball had as much to do with Monday’s win as Semien’s hitting or Quintana’s pitching. They were the most efficient defensive team in the majors last season, with a .988 fielding percentage and only 70 errors. This year they’re the sloppiest, with a .980 fielding percentage and 117 errors. Ventura points to their ham-handedness afield as the biggest reason for their last-place status.
“You just can’t give the other team opportunities and extra outs the way we have,” he said. “When you’re not catching the ball, it puts more pressure on your pitchers and hitters.”
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Semien and Garcia look like capable fielders as well as confident hitters.
“Semien has looked good everywhere we’ve played him in the infield, and Garcia is an aggressive outfielder,” Ventura said. “He runs well for a big kid, he has a strong arm and he’s not afraid to come in for the ball. I expect to see him in one of the corner [outfield] spots next year.”
The Sox retrieved Semien’s home-run ball, and it will occupy a place of honor at his mother’s home in Northern California.
“Your first anything in the big leagues is a special feeling,” he said. “I feel pretty good about the way I’ve been playing, the way I’ve handled things. You can’t play well up here if you’re intimidated.”
The Sox left immediately after the game for Cleveland, and the Indians will be delighted to see them as they try to secure an American League wild-card spot. The Indians have won 15 of this season’s 17 games with the Sox, including 12 in a row.
NOTES: Cleveland, trying to secure an American League wild-card spot, will be delighted to see the White Sox this week; the Indians have won 15 of this season’s 17 games, including 12 in a row.
Left-hander J.A. Happ, who started Monday’s game for the Blue Jays, is a Northwestern product from Spring Valley, Ill. The Phillies took Haap in the third round of the 2004 draft and later traded him to Houston for Roy Oswalt. The Astros sent him to the Jays in a nine-player deal in July, 2012. Happ missed three months of the season when he suffered a fractured skull after being struck by a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings on May 7.
Old friend Mark Buehrle (12-9, 4.09) surpassed 200 innings for the 13th consecutive season in Saturday’s victory over Boston, his sixth in his last eight decisions.