Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it's "like playing in the playoffs without being in the playoffs," with the intensity heightened as the crosstown rivals square off.
The 2012 version of the Windy City Series will kick off Friday at Wrigley Field as Phil Humber takes the mound for the White Sox against the North Siders' Jeff Samardzija.
"The only thing I can compare it to is when I was in Boston [and we played in] the Boston-New York [series]," Sveum said. "It was like a World Series atmosphere. I'm sure there will be double the media, and the players and everybody knows it. It's those series in the 162 games where you look on the schedule and you know exactly when you're going to play those games.
"Any time you are in a city that has two teams, those games mean a lot," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's fun for the fans. It's good for us, too. ... You get a different atmosphere. It's a different energy level, fan-wise. Whether it's over there or here, it's fun. It breaks things up."
Also breaking things up for the White Sox are the National League rules, meaning Adam Dunn will have to move out of the designated-hitter spot this weekend. He is likely to start all three games in left field, as Ventura will want to keep his bat in the lineup. Dunn has posted a .375 on-base percentage, .572 slugging percentage, 12 homers and 30 RBIs already this season after a disappointing 2011.
Samardzija has also been a pleasant surprise this season, racking up four wins and a 2.89 ERA so far. The Cubs would like to see him pitch deeper into games, like he did when he threw 7 2/3 and seven innings in his starts on May 2 and May 7. He lasted only five innings in his last start, a no-decision against the Brewers on Sunday.
"It was one of those outings where I had to make some pitches. I was in a situation where we had to work," he said. "Obviously, I'd like to pitch deeper in the game, but the bullpen pitched great and the offense gave us runs early -- and that's all that matters."
Friday's game might be the end of an era. Sources say Cubs reliever Kerry Wood has decided to retire after his next outing, which might come at any time during this series.
White Sox: Dayan's the odd-man out
With Dunn moving to the outfield, the red-hot Dayan Viciedo will have to come off the bench. The left fielder is amid a 9-for-18 stretch, with three homers and seven RBIs. Ventura will try to get Viciedo regular at-bats in addition to pinch-hitting opportunities.
"Right now we've got Adam playing in left field [Friday], and we'll go from there," Ventura said.
Humber is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA since throwing his perfect game on April 21, but he put forth a solid effort in his last outing, allowing one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. His lone appearance against the Cubs came last July 1, when he tossed seven shutout innings at Wrigley Field in a 1-0 Cubs win.
Cubs: Parker called up, Maine optioned
The Cubs called up right-hander Blake Parker from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, demoting left-hander Scott Maine to Triple-A. This is Parker's first time on a Major League roster. The 26-year-old went 1-0 with five saves and a 2.08 ERA in 13 relief appearances with Iowa this season, holding both righties and lefties to a .200 average.
"I liked him a lot in Spring Training," Sveum said Thursday. "He's got an above-average slider, and that's one thing we need right now is somebody who can go through right-handers with a slider. He's got velocity. He's a guy who has done a nice job and you have to start rewarding guys who've done a nice job."
Maine is 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA in six big-league relief appearances this season and is 2-1 with two saves and a 5.25 ERA in 10 outings with Iowa. He had just been recalled Wednesday when the Cubs placed right-handed reliever Lendy Castillo on the 15-day disabled list.
Catcher Geovany Soto was scratched from Thursday's lineup against the Phillies because of inflammation in his left knee. His status was day to day. Welington Castillo replaced Soto in the lineup in the series finale and went 2-for-4 with a double, home run and four RBIs.
The Cubs went 5-10 in Interleague Play last year, winning one game in each of their five series.
The White Sox were 11-7 in Interleague games last season, tied with Cleveland for the fourth-best mark in the AL.
The Cubs' Blake DeWitt has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Iowa. The infielder was designated for assignment for the second time this year on May 6, cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Minor League team. DeWitt was batting .138 in 18 games.