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Ozzie Guillen: I don’t favor Latinos

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez who went 0-for-4 gets set throw first base. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who went 0-for-4, gets set to throw to first base. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 6, 2011 12:45AM

It came as no surprise that slumping Alex Rios was out of the lineup Thursday. What surprised manager Ozzie Guillen was the uproar he has caused by playing Rios as much as he has after general manager Ken Williams cleared him to bench Rios despite his huge salary.

When Alejandro De Aza hit a home run in his first at-bat after being brought up from Class AAA Charlotte, some figured they had seen the last of Rios. But Guillen wasn’t about to subject the left-handed-hitting De Aza to the three straight left-handers the Sox faced. De Aza played right field Wednesday basically because Paul Konerko, who returned from a calf injury Thursday, was out of the lineup.

“Let me explain to the idiots out there, the geniuses,’’ Guillen said. “They say I don’t bench Rios, but the only player I benched because he didn’t hustle, it was Rios, for two days, OK?

“Tell these people out there, they think they know baseball more than I do, then send me the lineup that was better without Rios in [it]. Is Rios not playing well? Of course he’s not. He’s brutal everywhere.’’

But he was still Guillen’s best option in center field on the days he played, Guillen said.

Pointing out that he has benched Rios for not hustling, Guillen also strongly objected to the notion that he favors Latino players.

“You know how many Latino players I got rid of here?’’ he said.

“A lot” was the answer.

“Thank you, OK!’’ Guillen said. ‘‘Every time the people talk about it . . . it’s a bunch of crap.’’

Blaming it on Rios

Guillen said there are plenty of fingers to be pointed around for the Sox’ sub-standard play, including toward himself.

“Ozzie has been great,’’ Rios said. “He has played the game, so he knows what we’re going through. That doesn’t mean he feels for us, but he knows.’’

Rios took the day off in stride.

“Sometimes it’s good to clear your head and take the negatives out. It can be a good thing,’’ he said.

“This very bad slump that I’ve been through all season gets to you mentally, and [it can be] physically draining. It gets to a point where you almost lose confidence in yourself. I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

“It’s a very frustrating situation.

Rios often talks to his father in Puerto Rico, who he said is taking his slump very hard.

“He hurts for me so much that I worry about him,’’ Rios said.

On the Mark

Mark Buehrle starts in Minneapolis tonight as the Sox open a key series against their old nemeses, the Twins. Asked if being in a contract year is an incentive, Buehrle gave a predictable answer.

“I don’t think about that. If we’re 20 games out, I’ll go out there and try to win the game,’’ he said. “I hate losing.’’

Buehrle, 32, has allowed three runs or fewer in his last 16 starts.

“It’s not going to change the way I feel about next year, whether it’s playing or retiring or coming back here or going somewhere else,’’ he said. “It doesn’t change my mind just because I’m throwing the ball well.’’

The last word

Guillen, in a feisty mood before the game, said he’s ready to drop the gloves when the Sox play the Twins, who are 7-1 against the Sox.

“If we lose [Thursday], just have a very stupid attitude and go up to Minnesota and beat the crap out of them,’’ he said. “Take all of the anger and frustration out in Minnesota. I’ll make sure I get [manager] Ron Gardenhire one-on-one. I’m going to take boxing practice just for Gardy.’’

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