CHICAGO – With temperatures reaching the high-90s and a heat index soaring above 100 degrees, White Sox manager Robin Ventura is taking all the possible precautions.
The Sox did not hold their usual early batting practice before Friday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays and eliminated infield work. Since the Sox’s homestand began Tuesday, the game-time temperature has hovered between 91 and 99 degrees. At game-time Friday, it was 91 with a heat index of 104.
“It's better than cold,” designated hitter Adam Dunn said. “I'll take this over cold any day. It's hot for [the other team] too.”
The pregame work – early batting practice, infielders taking grounders and hitting in the cage – adds up and takes its toll on the players more so than playing a game, first baseman Paul Konerko said.
“I hate the cold. I think everybody hates the cold, especially early in the year, you can't even feel the bat,” Konerko said. “I'm not going to complain about the heat because I'd rather have that; the ball seems to carry better. It is hot, but it's not as bad as it's really cold here.”
Sunday starter: Ventura hinted this week that right-hander Dylan Axelrod would get the final start of the first half Sunday in place of All-Star Chris Sale, whose spot will be skipped.
On Friday, Ventura confirmed Axelrod will start the series finale against the Blue Jays despite pitching on short rest. Ventura expects to rely on the bullpen Sunday with four off days to follow for the All-Star break. However, Ventura isn’t going to force the issue or make a concerted effort to give his bullpen arms work with the break approaching.
“I don't think we're in a situation right now where we're just trying to get guys in just to get them in,” Ventura said. “But if it falls in line with the way the game is going and get them in, we'll do that.”
Youkilis finds his groove: Changing his Sox has paid off for third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Since coming to the South Side from Boston, Youkilis is batting .308 and in 10 games has nearly equaled his home runs and RBIs with the Red Sox (42 games) – only two homers and four RBIs shy.
“Youk's just in a spot where he's in a new situation and getting a chance to play,” Ventura said. “Again he's done this in the past. He's performed. He's played in a lot of different situations and big games, so it's nothing new to see him doing it. It's just different because he's doing it in our uniform.”