Even if Russell throws three or four no-hit innings in relief of Mark Buehrle against the Rangers at Tucson Electric Park, some believe the 6-foot-8 right-hander still remains ticketed for Double-A Birmingham's starting rotation. But regardless of the final ramifications, whether or not Russell has a legitimate shot at a Major League long relief spot, he refuses to change the approach that has brought him spring success.
"As far as Sunday goes, all I can do is throw strikes, get ahead of hitters and try to get some ground balls," said the 23-year-old Russell, who was bumped from his third spring start when Buehrle opted to throw against Major League competition. "I know that's what they are looking for from me.
"I'm not going to try to do too much. I'm not going to try to throw 100 [mph] by everyone. That wouldn't be who I am. I'm going to try to keep them in the game and show them I can still compete."
Russell features a fastball with the ability to touch 96 or 97 mph, but has earned notice this spring with the mastery of his drop-down fastball and drop-down slider. In Cactus League starts against Seattle and Kansas City, a pair of teams fielding lineups featuring most of their regular-season position players, Russell has allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings, while fanning six and walking two.
It was Monday's four-inning effort in Surprise against the Royals that prompted manager Ozzie Guillen to list Russell as a contender for one of his staff's openings. If Russell were to make the team, he would be part of the season opener against his hometown Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field -- a greater thrill for his family, which has watched him pitch this spring and served as Russell's greatest support system.
Adrenaline could give Russell a little extra bump and knock him out of rhythm on Sunday, with the increased pressure involved. But Russell doesn't plan on messing with success.
"Yeah, that's exactly right," Russell said. "You can't go out there and try to blow up the [speed] guns and stuff like that. You can't think you are going to strike everyone out. It's just not going to happen."
Regular-season ready: The deep knot in Jon Garland's shoulder at the beginning of Cactus League action would have caused much more concern and consternation for the White Sox No. 2 starter if he didn't go through the same medical malady last Spring Training. As it was, Garland still was more than a little bit worried until Monday's Minor League start and Saturday's effort of 5 2/3 innings against Arizona.
"If you were to look at my first start compared to this, just the mechanics and the way I'm throwing the ball, not pushing it up there, letting it go and driving through the zone, [it was] a lot better," said Garland, who allowed four runs on 11 hits. "A lot better stuff out there today."
Garland starts the Cactus League finale Thursday afternoon against the Rockies, but already feels ready to go for his April 4 start at home against Cleveland.
"Mentally, I'm ready to go," Garland said. "I'm not worried about my arm. It's amazing how much it brings you down, how much it takes out of you. It's definitely feeling better and I'm ready to go."
Slide rule: When the White Sox acquired David Aardsma from the Cubs in an offseason trade for Neal Cotts, the hard-throwing right-hander immediately was assumed to be a lock for the 2007 bullpen. While his 18 baserunners allowed in eight innings might indicate thoughts to the contrary, pitching coach Don Cooper still includes Aardsma among the mix to fill the final two bullpen spots.
Cooper pointed to work on Aardsma's slider as the biggest task this spring.
"He's thrown a good fastball, thrown some good sliders, thrown some inconsistent sliders," said Cooper of Aardsma, who gave up one earned run on six hits over two innings during Saturday's "B" game against Arizona, while fanning five. "He came in throwing fastball, knuckle-curve, and that wasn't the guy we knew we traded for.
"Aardsma was fastball, slider. So we've had to go to work on the slider since Day 1. I think where we're at right now is some good ones and some inconsistent ones, but I'm seeing more and more good ones."
Around the horn: Josh Fields, wearing jersey No. 13, homered and drove in two during Arizona's 5-4 victory over the White Sox in "B" game play Saturday morning. Pablo Ozuna chipped in three hits with a stolen base, while Wiki Gonzalez doubled twice. ... Veteran White Sox hitters, such as Scott Podsednik, Eduardo Perez and Gonzalez, were impressed by Randy Johnson's first start since offseason back surgery during the "B" game. "He was very sharp, surprisingly sharp," Perez said. "He attacked the zone and he was just working on his stuff." ... Perez finished 0-for-3 with two walks in his first on-field action since straining his right calf while running out a home run on March 14 against Milwaukee.
Up next: While Buehrle and Russell will draw the most attention in Sunday's game against the Rangers, Brian Anderson is scheduled to get a rare start in right field and hit ninth for the 3:05 p.m. CT first pitch. The White Sox are watching how Anderson adjusts to a utility role, the job he most likely will have if he breaks camp with the team.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.