Chicago White Sox: Chris Perez
CHICAGO – As they prepare for a series against the first-place Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox sit just 3 ½ games back in the standings. But the South Siders aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
In fact, if you talk to the team’s manager or its hottest hitter both say they are taking it one day at a time.
“That has kind of been preached to us since the start,” said Paul Konerko, who leads the AL in hitting going into Friday’s contest. “We have had a lot of games so far this season that have been tough losses, and we have bounced back the next day. Guys are buying in … and it’s a good attitude to have.”
The underselling of this important series may have worked for the White Sox so far, but at some point, this ball club will have to develop some swagger in order to play with the big boys. Pros like Konerko and manger Robin Ventura do not get excited about a team that is just one game over five hundred in a mediocre division.
”It’s nice when you get the win, but at this point we need to keep grinding and keep working trying to be the best team we can be ,” Konerko said.
The White Sox have won five of nine games against the Tribe this season. After this weekend’s series, they do not play Cleveland again until Oct. 1-3.
“It’s an important series because it’s a team in first place, but there is still a long way to go,” Ventura said. “There is still a long way to go, and it (won’t ) judge the season by what happens this weekend.”
All of that aside, there is already some fuel to this rivalry. Words were exchanged between Cleveland closer Chris Perez and Sox outfielder Alex Rios earlier this month. Perez mouth off to Rios as he made the last out of the game on May 3 and Rios got his revenge with an extra inning home run that beat Perez and the Indians in 10 innings on May 8.
In spite of what Konerko and Ventura say, expect anything but a “normal” series this weekend.
Believing that the demonstrative closer was yelling at him, Rios wasn’t so quick to leave the field. Instead he stared down Perez and began to shout in his direction.
Even as the dust of Chicago’s loss settled, Rios was still somewhat flummoxed.
“I don’t know what was wrong with him,” Rios said. “He just started yelling … for no reason. … When I hit the ground ball and I was running to first, he was yelling (at me) the whole way.”
The brief exchange between the two players escalated no further than a few words, however.
“I couldn’t tell what he was saying, he was just staring and saying something,” Rios said after the game. “If he was celebrating, that is not the right way to do it.”
Perez had a different take on the final out of the game.
“He might of thought I was yelling at him,” Perez said. “I wasn’t. I was yelling at my teammates, happy about the win.
According to both players, there was no past incident or bad blood between them prior to Thursday’s game.
“The only history we have is I gave up a grand slam to him last year,” Perez said. “He is a competitor, I am a competitor. He is on a different team. I am not friends with him. If he is mad I don’t care.”
The two teams play a four-game series in Cleveland beginning on Monday.
“You can use that as motivation in some way,” Rios said. “But let’s just play ball.”