Weary White Sox stars likely spectators

Weary White Sox stars likely spectators

PITTSBURGH -- When Sunday's first-half finale at U.S. Cellular Field reached somewhere around the 15th or 16th inning, almost all of the White Sox players truly became of like mindset.

It wasn't so much about winning, at that point, as it was about bringing the marathon across the finish line.

"We got to the point where it was like, 'Someone score a run, please,'" said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, of his team's 6-5 victory over Boston, which took 19 innings and more than six hours to complete. "We wanted to get out of there."

"For me, it was the longest game I've ever been part of," White sox closer Bobby Jenks added. "I'm sure it was true for other guys, too. It was draining."

"When a game goes that long, it doesn't matter. Your mindset is for somebody to get the job done," White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye chimed in on the contest. "Games start getting that long, and you worry about guys getting hurt and dehydrated. Fortunately, being out there that long, we came out on top."

Dye, Jenks and Pierzynski share a few common traits, extending well beyond their desire for Sunday's game to have finished three hours earlier, or the fact that each one played absolutely outstanding baseball during the first half of the 2006 season.

For starters, Dye, Jenks and Pierzynski make up three-sevenths of the White Sox All-Star contingency in Pittsburgh, with all but Mark Buehrle in attendance at Monday's hour-long open media session at the Westin Hotel, after their charter landed in Pittsburgh just after midnight. Buehrle was absent due to a prior family commitment.

This trio also might find its onfield time limited Tuesday night at PNC Park, stemming from Sunday's craziness. All three of these individuals truly went beyond the call of duty to pick up the all-important victory over the Red Sox.

Jenks worked 2 2/3 innings and threw 31 pitches, the fourth time in 2006 that the throwback closer has topped the 30-pitch mark. Dye played all 19 innings in right field, hitting the game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth off of Boston closer Jonathon Papelbon, and making a spectacular running catch against the right-field wall in the 19th inning on a drive off the bat of Alex Cora.

But Pierzynski suffered the greatest beating to his body, either Pierzynski or Boston catcher Jason Varitek, as they were both behind the plate for all 19 innings. Although Pierzynski said he felt fine on Monday and would be ready to go Tuesday night, if needed, he didn't expect to get on the field after talking with manager Ozzie Guillen.

"Ozzie told me no, so we will see," said Pierzynski, who was elected in the Monster 2006 American League Final Vote. "He told [reserve catcher Chris] Widger yesterday that he didn't have to worry about getting in the game. If [Sunday's] game goes 45 innings, I'm catching every inning because I'm not playing in the All-Star Game.

"It's Ozzie being Ozzie. At least I know and Ozzie is upfront about his decision."

The White Sox have the strongest player representation in Pittsburgh, with the seven All-Stars. But the number of All-Stars who actually play could dwindle considerably. Pierzynski already has shared Guillen's thoughts on his availability, and Jose Contreras was replaced by Minnesota's Francisco Liriano on the active roster Monday, as Guillen didn't feel comfortable with Contreras being 100 percent capable of handling his extensive pregame pitching routine after he threw 114 pitches Sunday.

Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Dye seemed ready for action Tuesday, with Konerko joking that he left for a pinch-runner in the 11th inning and still was able to pretty much watch another entire game. Buehrle last pitched Friday and could be in for multiple innings of work, with closers such as Jenks and Papelbon possibly limited to one or two batters.

According to Jenks, one inning would have been possible from him on Monday and Guillen confirmed Jenks will be available on Tuesday. But Guillen also knows the challenge facing the White Sox for the second half and doesn't want to overextend any of his top performers, let alone any other American League player who needs rest.

"Ozzie knows from the season that I'm available any day," said Jenks, who is making his first All-Star appearance. "Especially with the day off today, I'm ready to go. Ultimately, though, it's Ozzie's decision."

"With Ozzie being the manager he is, he's not going to run our guys out there and kill them," Pierzynski added. "We have a second half to think about."

There's also an American League victory to think about in the 77th All-Star Game, a win that will provide home-field advantage during the World Series. It was a bonus that helped the White Sox win their first title since 1917 last season, and it's an advantage they are not discounting in 2006.

So, the ultimate quandary for Guillen and his charges pits needed rest, after 19 innings of action, against the thrill and importance of All-Star participation. The players sound as if they would like to find some way to get on the field and contribute, but that dedication pales greatly to one overriding fact emanating from Sunday.

With two spectacular comebacks against one of the best bullpens in baseball and a 19-inning victory, the White Sox truly set up themselves for a memorable second half after the All-Star Game.

"Especially the way Boston beat our tails the first two games and we didn't play very well, for us to come back on Papelbon with Jermaine's home run, and for us to come back again off [Mike] Timlin, it showed a lot," Pierzynski said. "It's something we needed going into the break."

"It was a long, tough game, no doubt about it," Konerko added. "The main thing about the game is we won, and let's just leave it at that and forget about it."

"We had a long night, but it's good to be here," Thome concluded. "This is worth it. It's great to be around all these guys. It's pretty cool."

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