Guillen: It all boils down to pitching
White Sox manager addresses All-Star selection process
CHICAGO -- Give Ozzie Guillen credit for consistency in his managerial approach, regardless of whether he's running the show for the White Sox or the American League All-Star team.
Guillen joined Houston manager Phil Garner, who is the man in charge of the National League All-Star team, on a 30-minute conference call Thursday afternoon, during which topics ranging from Guillen's selection process to his choice for a starting pitcher were addressed.
Most of Guillen's answers relating to the game itself had a certain common ground: pitching, pitching and more pitching.
"The toughest thing about this for me was making the pitching staff," Guillen said. "We won't win without pitching, especially with this game being played in a National League park."
It was pitching, defense and a great grasp of fundamental baseball that sent the White Sox to their first World Series title since 1917, and gave Guillen the managerial responsibilities for the 2006 All-Star Game. With this game no longer being an exhibition, as the winning league gets home-field advantage for the World Series, Guillen wants to win Tuesday's affair almost as much as he wanted the South Siders to emerge victoriously last October.
And Guillen is approaching this game as a manager, not just an overseer of a collection of baseball's top talent. Guillen explained Thursday that Detroit's Kenny Rogers still is the leading candidate to start for the American League, with Rogers not only deserving the honor via his 11 victories, but also the pitcher best situated for the start with his last trip to the mound coming Wednesday.
A Canadian reporter asked Guillen about Toronto starter Roy Halladay, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday, but said Wednesday that he could give the All-Stars 40 pitches on what would be his regular side day. Guillen's response showed more concern for the player himself, with the White Sox manager not willing to risk a player's health for victory.
"I don't want to ruin this guy's health," said Guillen of Halladay. "I respect the Blue Jays, they are in the pennant race. If he throws 40 pitches and it's only in the first inning, then I might try to push him too much.
"Do I want [Rogers] to be the first guy? Yes. But I can't announce him until Monday, and I have to check with his pitching coach and [Detroit manager Jim] Leyland. I need him to give me one or two innings."
Minnesota's Johan Santana and the White Sox Jose Contreras, two of the prime candidates to start for the American League, both are pitching Sunday's first-half finale and would fall under the same category as Halladay in Guillen's mind. This innings' quandary is one of the reasons why Guillen selected someone such as Mark Buehrle, who is pitching Friday against Boston, over another deserving pitcher such as Boston's Curt Schilling, who works against Contreras in Chicago on Sunday.
Buehrle certainly is deserving, with his overall numbers comparable to the other All-Star pitchers before his 10-run, 13-hit shellacking over five innings administered by the Cubs on Sunday. But Buehrle, making his third All-Star trip and second straight, made absolutely no excuses for his inclusion.
In 2004, Buehrle had a 9-2 record and an ERA just over 4.00 at the break. Yet, Esteban Loaiza, sitting at 8-4 with a 4.77 ERA, was the lone White Sox representative. Players seemed to get overlooked every year.
"At the time of the All-Star Game, when they had to choose it, I thought my numbers deserved to be in there," Buehrle said. "Obviously, after that outing, if they had to make the decision after the game, I don't think I would be going.
"Once this all blows over, next year or toward the end of this year, nobody is going to say Buehrle went to the All-Star Game and Schilling didn't. It all will be forgotten about."
News regarding Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez didn't change from Wednesday, with information out of Boston claiming that Ramirez won't start or play for the AL team, and Guillen countering that he has heard nothing official from the league. Guillen could ask Ramirez this weekend about his status, but Guillen said the final word has to come from baseball officials.
There were questions for Guillen about the up-and-coming stars in the American League, the changing of the guard of sorts, with players such as Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore as part of this year's All-Star Game. There also were a few more inquiries into other deserving players who were passed over, such as Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, and how the selection process worked for a somewhat controversial pick such as Kansas City's Mark Redman.
In the end, Guillen's answers came back to one central point -- it's all about the pitching. It has been Guillen's theme since he took over the White Sox in 2004, and it's certainly worked for him to this point.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.