CHICAGO -- The game was on the line Friday night when Miami reliever Chad Qualls faced Paul Konerko leading off the ninth with the score deadlocked at 3.
Of course, this particular matchup also evokes historic memories for White Sox fans and players, with Konerko having launched a seventh-inning grand slam off Qualls in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Astros at U.S. Cellular Field.
Word over the past eight years was that Qualls might have tipped his pitch to Konerko in that tense situation, but the White Sox captain doesn't remember it playing out that way.
"If it was anything, it was more: 'This guy likes to come in and go after people. Be ready to hit. He likes to get ahead 0-1 with the fastball.' I don't think I ever faced him before that," said Konerko, who launched the first pitch from Qualls in '05. "If I remember back with their pitchers going into the series we were told, 'Hey, when relievers come in from the bullpen, be ready to swing the bat first pitch because they like to jump ahead and go to their other stuff.' It was kind of like that.
"Obviously, that was a big moment and something I won't forget in my career. It's not like I could ever face him without thinking about that. But that was a while ago. To his credit, he's still out there pitching in the big leagues and I guess I'm still out here playing in the big leagues, so it's kind of a cool thing that it's going on eight years ago now and we weren't rookies then either. It's a feather in both of our caps that we're out here still playing."
Qualls won the battle Friday, inducing a groundout from Konerko, leaving Konerko 0-for-3 in the regular season against the right-hander. But the blue seat in left field at U.S. Cellular, marking Konerko's grand slam in a game the White Sox won on Scott Podsednik's walk-off homer, shows he won the important postseason matchup.
"I probably only see it during batting practice because usually it's covered up during the game," Konerko said. "But when somebody pops off to me in batting practice like [Tyler] Flowers or somebody, I make sure to point out the seat to them."
Sale plays catch, will throw bullpen session Sunday
CHICAGO -- Chris Sale played catch from 100 feet in the outfield before Saturday's contest with the Marlins at U.S. Cellular Field and proclaimed himself ready to go for Tuesday's home start against the Cubs.
Sale will throw a bullpen session on Sunday as one final hurdle, after his scheduled start this past Wednesday was skipped because of a mild case of tendinitis at the back of his throwing shoulder.
"It went real well. It felt a lot better than I actually thought it would," Sale said. "Everything is on track and I'll be ready to go on Tuesday."
Both pitching coach Don Cooper and head athletic trainer Herm Schneider stressed to Sale that he was just trying to get some blood flowing in Saturday's session after not making a start since May 17 in Anaheim because of the precautionary move taken by the team.
"You are not trying to get work, just trying to get it loose and see how it feels," said Sale, who is sitting on a consecutive scoreless streak of 23 innings. "[I'll] throw a little bit more tomorrow and get a little bit more behind it."
Gimenez starts again in place of injured Flowers
CHICAGO -- Tyler Flowers was out of Saturday's White Sox starting lineup because of back spasms, meaning reserve Hector Gimenez picked up a second straight start.
"He feels pretty much the same as he did yesterday. He's still out getting treatment," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Flowers. "He says he can catch, but I think doing anything else probably would prove a little difficult now. Hopefully it gets better."
Gimenez drove in a run with a fifth-inning single during Friday's victory and has five hits over his last two games, carrying a .250 average into Saturday's contest.
"I'm not trying to do too much. I'm not trying to hit the ball out of the park every time," said the switch-hitting Gimenez. "Just trying to make contact and just hit the ball on the barrel. Just put it in play."
Danks hopes to be a better pitcher after long layoff
CHICAGO -- There were nothing but smiles coming from John Danks after his six-plus-inning, 76-pitch season debut for the White Sox in Friday night's extra-innings victory over the Marlins. Danks struck out five and didn't issue a walk, hitting as high as 91 mph with his fastball and showing off a strong changeup.
But Danks knows the pitcher he was Friday might be different than the pitcher he is in August and certainly will be different from the pitcher he will be in 2014. He continues to build up arm strength after season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery last Aug. 6.
"There will be some times where I have to adapt on that certain day, and yeah, I mean I'm ready for it," Danks said. "It's part of it. I'm just glad to be back and part of the team.
"I didn't feel like there was too much of a drop off last night. I feel like I was able to make the ball do what I wanted and the biggest key for me is throwing where I'm trying to throw it. Limit my mistakes and try to stay around the strike zone best I can."
In the almost eight-month rehab process for Danks, he was able to become an even greater student of the pitching craft.
"Just focusing on stuff I hadn't focused on before mechanically," Danks said. "There were times where if I did it wrong, it hurt. My shoulder let me know I was doing it wrong. I think in the long run, I probably grew through this process.
"It was a sorry process. I don't want to do it again. But there's definitely things I can take from it."
Third to first
• Manager Robin Ventura didn't hear Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's rant following first-base umpire Angel Hernandez's incorrect call on a double play in the 10th inning Friday night, but he didn't need to in order to know where Harrelson's allegiance always falls.
"It's not a secret that he would like us to win every night," said Ventura of Harrelson's broadcasting style over his 29 seasons on the South Side. "Playing here, that's part of the fun, he's into it and pulling for you. Sometimes the filter doesn't quite close all the way."
"He's the 26th, 27th and 28th guy. He's the Hawk. What can you say?" said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of Harrelson. "He's going to say whatever's on his mind. He's been around for a long time, he's been in baseball a long time. If he sees something he doesn't like, he's going to let people know. That's the Hawk."
• Angel Sanchez was returned from his injury rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Charlotte prior to Saturday's game, reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and then outrighted to Charlotte. Sanchez, 29, was on the disabled list since April 10 with a lower back strain and has appeared in one game this season with the White Sox.
The move puts the White Sox 40-man roster at 39.
• Gordon Beckham has started two games at shortstop during his current injury rehab assignment with Charlotte, as well as taking infield at that spot during Spring Training. The second baseman could move to shortstop, if necessary, late in a game or potentially for a start.
"We like the fact he's a great second baseman," Ventura said. "Again, are you going to better with him there at times or somebody else there? It just depends on what we need at that time. If his confidence is able to do it, then we're all for it."
• The White Sox are 11-14 against teams below .500 this season.
• According to Elias, Jeff Keppinger joined A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik (both in 2009) as the only White Sox players since 1994 to have two hits in extra innings, including a game-ender, after going hitless (at least two at-bats) in the first nine. Keppinger was 0-for-3 when he singled in the 10th and delivered the walk-off single in the 11th.