CHICAGO -- Detroit's 5-2 victory over the White Sox Sunday afternoon also marked the season debut for Zach Stewart, who threw one perfect inning of relief and struck out one. The 25-year-old right-hander functions as the White Sox version of the Maytag repair man in that a middle reliever doesn't get too many calls with a starting staff consistently working deep in games.
So Stewart stays as prepared as possible for when his time comes.
"I'm just trying to stay with the things I've always done," said Stewart, who started eight of the 10 games he appeared in last year for the White Sox. "Make sure I'm throwing the ball well to both sides of the plate.
"I've been throwing sides every other day or so -- just whatever I've got to do to stay sharp. And my main focus is always my two-seamer, just trying to keep guys off-balance. I've also been talking with [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and [White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves] for their opinions on how I should stay prepared and being ready when I get my opportunities."
Stewart quipped that if the White Sox have a lead and the game hits the seventh, he knows there's a pretty good chance inactivity is ahead of him on that night.
"At the same time, you never know," said Stewart, who gave up six runs and five unearned runs the 10th inning of Monday's 10-4 loss to the Orioles, in a game where the White Sox had a two-run lead in the ninth. "Baseball is a crazy game and you have to stay prepared. Our starting staff has been great and it's one of those things where they are just making it where I don't have anything to do. That's fine with me as long as we are winning."
After strong start, Sox keep perspective
CHICAGO -- John Danks didn't happen to hear or read the praise heaped upon the White Sox by Tigers manager Jim Leyland before his team left town on Sunday night.
When apprised of Leyland's kind words prior to Monday's series opener with the Orioles, Danks gave a response fairly representative of the entire White Sox team. He appreciated someone with Leyland's baseball knowledge going out of his way to support the overlooked South Siders after their strong first week of the 2012 season, but Danks also knows that talk is cheap where the actual on-field results are concerned.
"That's a huge compliment coming from him," said the White Sox ace of Leyland's words. "He's got a lot of time and has had a lot of success in the game.
"But again, you take it and don't dwell on it. Something you learn along the way is that you are never as good as they say you are and never as bad as they say you are. It's just the ups and downs of a baseball season. We are going to try to play as consistently good as we can."
Leyland took great umbrage to preseason prognostications of the White Sox as a fourth- or fifth-place team in the American League Central, not to mention a 95-loss prediction coming from Sports Illustrated. The Tigers leader then broke down in detail why the White Sox will contend following his team's series loss at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Look at their pitching staff. Look at the arms they bring out of the bullpen," Leyland told reporters. "Paul Konerko's one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn's going to do a lot better than he did last year.
"[Alexei] Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. [A.J.] Pierzynski's one of the best catchers, gets a lot of big hits. This is a real good team. I don't know why anybody would not pick these guys as a solid, solid contender. We've got a good team. So do they."
The White Sox never doubted they had a potential contender, although they readily acknowledged the Tigers were the team to beat. But if they would have started the season at 2-6, they would have talked about having plenty games left to play.
At 5-4 and with a good feeling emanating even after Monday's disappointing 10-4 loss in 10 innings to the Orioles, they feel the same way about the season's length.
"He's seen a lot of baseball, but that doesn't guarantee anything anyway. It's more about what we think and how we prepare and go about it," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Leyland. "Anybody can say anything, but it matters how you come in every day and how you think you're going to play. Once you get to the point where you think you're going to win the games you play, that's what you're looking for."
"It's very positive and encouraging to know that we are off to a good start within the division," Danks said. "We are eight or nine games in so we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. It has been a fun couple of weeks, just the atmosphere within the dugout and the clubhouse. If we can keep doing what we've done this first stretch, then I like our chances to play some meaningful games later in the season. That's the goal."
Thornton to keep mixing it up on mound
CHICAGO -- Matt Thornton entered Friday's victory and threw four fastballs, including one to Miguel Cabrera, inducing a slickly-turned double play by Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. But when he returned on Saturday, Thornton used eight fastballs in the mid-90s and mixed in three sliders during that scoreless appearance.
The hard-throwing left-hander ended his outing, and the White Sox victory, with an 80 mph slider to get a weakly-hit Brandon Inge comebacker, following a 97 mph fastball the pitch before. Thornton has relied on his high-octane fastball since joining the White Sox, but started working last season on employing the offspeed pitches as well.
"It's something I worked on a lot in Spring Training and I don't want to lose touch," said Thornton, who made his seventh consecutive scoreless appearance in Monday's 10-4 loss to the Orioles in 10 innings. "The situation dictates what I'm going to do.
"Obviously my primary pitch is my fastball, and I'm throwing offspeed pitches to keep hitters off balance. We get that in our reports. Use it for ground balls and early outs."
Hickey moved back to Chicago in intensive care
CHICAGO -- White Sox batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey was transported back to Chicago from Dallas over the weekend and is in intensive care at Rush University Medical Center. Hickey remains unresponsive while showing small signs of improvement, according to the White Sox.
Hickey, 56, pitched for the White Sox from 1981-83 and for the Orioles from 1989-91. He has been unresponsive since being taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas on April 5 upon being found in his hotel room after he failed to show up for the team's workout that Thursday morning.
• Kip Wells and the White Sox have parted ways before the right-hander reported to extended spring training. The team's 16th pick overall in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft played for the White Sox from 1999-2001 and agreed to a Minor League deal after a workout for the team in Houston. But the experiment ended for the soon-to-be 35-year-old, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2009, and both sides have moved on.
• Jordan Danks received his 2011 MILB Rawlings Gold Glove in a ceremony prior to Triple-A Charlotte's game Monday with Durham. The younger brother of John Danks topped International League outfielders with 329 total chances in 2011 and had nine outfield assists.