Notes: Uribe an odd duck in field

Notes: Uribe an odd duck in field

CHICAGO -- When Ozzie Guillen first labelled Juan Uribe as "the best shortstop to ever play the game" in terms of his defense, his response drew more than a few surprised looks from the assembled media surrounding the White Sox manager Saturday morning.

But Guillen quickly explained that his thoughts stemmed from Uribe's completely unorthodox style of handling ground balls.

"If you see this kid take ground balls.... he is completely opposite of what you have to do to make a catch, and believe me, I played there for a long time," said Guillen of Uribe with a laugh. "I've never seen anyone in the history of baseball catch the ball the way he does.

"He catches the ball sideways. It's weird. To do that, you have to be real good with your hands. I've seen (Omar) Vizquel and Alex Gonzalez and a lot of good shortstops, but nobody catches the ball the way he does. You can't teach that and you can't take that away from him."

Uribe already has committed two errors in the first 10 games, but his move to shortstop from second base has been very steady overall. His talent and unique defensive style were both on display Friday night during Jon Garland's masterpiece. With one out in the sixth inning and Garland still perfect, Miguel Olivo hit a broken-bat grounder to shortstop, which Uribe fielded and then threw out the fleet-footed catcher by a split-second.

With the game on the line in the top of the ninth, Uribe picked up pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs' grounder and forced Randy Winn at second for the final out. Of course, the confident Uribe grabbed Dobbs' hard-hit roller off to the side.

"Everyone makes an error, but I want every ground ball for me," said Uribe, who had six assists and one putout Friday.

The offense produced by Uribe Friday, which consisted of his first home run and four RBIs, is of equal importance to the White Sox cause. Guillen believes Uribe once again is swinging the bat well, with an offensive approach slightly less unorthodox than his defense.

"When he struggles, he wants to get three hits in one at-bat," said Guillen of Uribe. "You have to stay on him every day.

"Uribe is going to be Uribe. He's going to put up his numbers. They're going to be ugly ones, but he will put his numbers up."

Stay strong: As Shingo Takatsu walked out of the clubhouse after Friday's victory, Dustin Hermanson stopped on his way to the training room and gave the struggling closer a quick pat on the back. It was the same sort of statement Guillen issued verbally to Takatsu after removing him with the bases loaded, two outs and the White Sox lead down to two runs.

Guillen reiterated Saturday morning that Takatsu still is his closer and would have stayed in Friday against a string of right-handed hitters. But he also made clear that leaving Takatsu in the game to build up his confidence wasn't an option, even with it only being the 10th game of the season.

"I get paid to win games and give the team the best opportunity to win games," Guillen said. "Shingo wasn't the best chance (last night). I hope Shingo understands what we're trying to do. That's my worry. I hope he doesn't lose his confidence and knows he's still the man."

Both Guillen and catcher A.J. Pierzynski agree that Takatsu's troubles have come from the inability to command his off-speed pitches within the strike zone, leading hitters to lay off the tantalizingly slow changeup. But while Guillen mentioned Saturday that he only plans to use Takatsu in save situations, explaining why the right-hander didn't start the ninth inning Friday in a four-run game, Pierzynski believes a less-pressurized pitching situation could help Takatsu.

"He needs to get out there for an inning without the game on the line," Pierzynski said. "Let him out there with a five or six run lead and see what he can do. Every time he has (pitched), the game has been on the line and it's tough to work on things. It's tough to get your confidence up."

Be aggressive: During pregame warmups in the White Sox bullpen Friday, Garland lamented that he could barely throw a strike. That problem actually helped the sinkerball specialist, who didn't try to do too much once he took the mound.

"I just tried to throw strikes and had a lot of movement," Garland said.

Guillen pointed to Garland's ability to throw more strikes and his aggressiveness on the mound as the keys to his 2-0 start in 2005 and his brush with perfection.

"Any time Jon tries to be cute and tries to make pitches, he gets in trouble," Guillen said. "Stay aggressive and don't lose the focus. Believe in yourself."

Down on the farm: Josh Fields raised his average to .368 with two hits and one RBI during Double-A Birmingham's 8-7 victory over Montgomery. Sean Tracey earned the victory, allowing one run on seven hits over seven innings, while Ryan Sweeney continued to fight his way back from a slow start with two hits and two runs scored. Sweeney is now hitting .250. Bobby Jenks picked up his third save in the one-run victory.

Robert Valido knocked out four hits to lead Class A Winston-Salem to a 4-2 victory over Lynchburg. Ray Liotta, part of the 2004 draft class, fanned nine over seven scoreless innings in Class A Kannapolis' 1-0 victory at Asheville.

Coming soon: Will the Seattle Mariners even show up for Sunday's series finale with Freddy Garcia on the mound for a day game? Obviously, the Mariners will take their shots against the one-time Seattle ace, but Garcia is almost invincible in afternoon contests. The right-hander is 15-2 with a 2.58 ERA when starting during the day since 2003.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.