Notes: Clouds burst after power drought
Garland much improved; Cooper focused on current pitchers
MESA, Ariz. -- It took five Cactus League contests, but the White Sox were reacquainted with an old friend known as the long ball during Sunday's 13-2 shellacking of the Cubs at HoHoKam Park.
Entering Sunday afternoon's battle between a sold-out and sun-drenched crowd, Ozzie Guillen's crew had one home run from Jermaine Dye and one from Joe Crede -- a paltry number for a team with four players who topped 30 home runs in 2006. Against eight Cubs pitchers, White Sox hitters went deep five times.
Paul Konerko stood out on offense with two home runs, including a tape-measure shot in the fifth inning off of John Webb that sailed over a large group of fans occupying the left-field berm.
"That was a good swing, my best swing of the spring so far," said Konerko, who also walked and scored a third run. "Right now, you are just trying to feel better every day. Results really aren't important. The last week is when you kind of focus in on the results."
Dye homered for his second straight day, while Rob Mackowiak cleared the fences against reliever Juan Mateo. Even Minor League catcher Gustavo Molina, who has only been in camp for the weekend after working through travel visa problems in Venezuela, launched a three-run shot off of Will Ohman in the eighth.
Konerko's first-inning drive off of Cubs starter Rich Hill was the most significant blast, if any offensive numbers can be considered significant six games into Spring Training. The White Sox first baseman jumped ahead, 3-1, in the count, fouled a pitch off and then lofted a drive into the left-field stands.
But Konerko didn't exactly out-guess the young left-hander, not at this early stage of the spring development process.
"He showed a breaking ball and high fastball, so you can't pigeonhole where he's going to go," Konerko said. "I'm not in a good enough spot to guess right now. I'm trying to stay with a plan and worry about what I'm doing. Later on in the spring, you worry about situational stuff and where a guy is going to go.
"Usually, you start off OK and then you have a little dip somewhere in the middle. You get a little worried and have to work a little harder. The last couple of games, even if it's in Atlanta [during the final two exhibition games], if that's when you get the feel, that's when you get it. Sometimes, guys peak too early in the spring and don't start off well."
Playing with a full deck: By the time the fourth inning came around, Jon Garland was a bit tired but felt as if he could have worked another frame against the Cubs. There was no reason to push Garland in just his second spring start, a marked improvement over the six runs on eight hits the right-hander yielded in his first two innings.
The difference against the Cubs was that Garland threw strikes and put the ball where he wanted. It also helped Garland to use his full repertoire of pitches, giving up two hits over three scoreless innings.
"It's a big difference when you can keep the hitters off balance and mix in all your pitches," Garland said. "They foul stuff off and don't get the good part of the bat on it. I'm making them swing at my pitches, not theirs.
"During the last time I was out there, it was all fastballs and one changeup. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's coming."
The final word: Absent from the two-day, mini-controversy surrounding Brandon McCarthy and Guillen were any comments from Don Cooper, McCarthy's former pitching coach. Cooper consciously chooses to stay away from negative conversations about players no longer with the organization, although he did briefly add his perspective on the situation that has been completely settled.
"Oh, God, you know what? I'm immune to that stuff," Cooper said. "The only thing I said to myself is we don't stress negatives. We bring up negatives in the most positive light possible.
"I didn't put much credence into it, to tell you the truth. Brandon McCarthy is a good pitcher. I think he's going to go on to have a nice career for himself. I certainly wish him the best, except when he pitches against us. But I have 27 other pitchers in camp now and as much as I like Brandon, he's gone. That's it. That's the reality. We have work to do here."
Beyond the numbers: Although Mark Buehrle allowed four runs on six hits over two innings in his first Cactus League start, Guillen liked what he saw from the left-hander.
"If he throws the ball the way he did the first outing, I know the results weren't what we wanted, but he'll be fine," said Guillen of his left-handed ace, scheduled to start Monday against Milwaukee.
"I'm taking heat from Chicago that I'm trying to protect Buehrle, but I know what I see and I know what he has. I talked to my pitching coach, and aside from his wife and his mom, Cooper knows Buehrle better than anyone. And Cooper is really excited about what he sees. He's not going to lie to me."
Around the horn: Guillen mentioned that Gio Gonzalez would be stretched out over the next week or so in order to make a start during a "B" game back in Tucson. "I want to see how he prepares himself to start," said Guillen of the left-hander. ... Guillen didn't talk to Hill, the starting pitcher who drew the manager's ire last year when he criticized the White Sox after the bench-clearing brawl at U.S. Cellular Field on May 20, but he held no animosity toward the left-hander. Guillen did hug Neal Cotts before the game, the one-time White Sox hurler who was traded to the Cubs for David Aardsma. ... A group of White Sox fans at HoHoKam Park held up a sign reading, "Go Sox. Guillen for President." He acknowledged the sign but chose to keep his present job.
Up next: The White Sox stay in the Phoenix area and take on the Brewers in Maryvale on Monday afternoon. Buehrle faces off against Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan, while Bobby Jenks is scheduled to pitch an inning during a morning "B" game with Colorado in Tucson. Jenks makes his first appearance since leaving Wednesday's outing with shoulder tightness.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.