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WSI News - News Watch

Garland's win boosts confidence

March 31, By Paul Sullivan; Chicago Tribune

SAN FRANCISCO - Jon Garland was riding a bike around the White Sox's clubhouse Wednesday while discussing the state of the pitching staff.

"You guys are all worried," Garland said. "There's no reason to worry. We're going to be all right."

Taking the mound Sunday for the last time before the regular season, Garland gave the kind of performance that could calm even the most skeptical Sox fans. He threw five innings of one-run ball in a 5-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants, ending the exhibition season on a high note.

"This was a big confidence-booster going into the season," Garland said. "I had five strong innings and now I'm ready to take that into Kansas City."

Garland had five strikeouts and walked no one, blowing away Barry Bonds in one at-bat with a high fastball. His next start will be Friday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

"It was nice to see, to come into these two ballparks (Miller Park and Pacific Bell Park) and get this kind of pitching," manager Jerry Manuel said. "It was something we needed, despite all the travel, to get that kind of confidence from Jon Garland."

Mute button - General manager Ken Williams says he's through talking about attendance and economics and how they relate to the team, particularly with regard to adding players. That's fine with Manuel.

"I'm going to leave that alone this year," he said. "I've taken the message to my players that I don't want them to anticipate or expect anything from that area. I don't want to use that as an excuse. I wanted to get that out of the way right away.

"If our fans show up, I think we're going to be playing good baseball and they'll be proud of the way we play."

Walk on -Before his season-ending triceps injury last April, Frank Thomas didn't have a walk in his final 11 games, a career-long 41 plate appearances without a base on balls. With the team struggling offensively, Thomas was uncharacteristically impatient at the plate.

"Of course I was," he said. "I found something, a trigger position, and for two to three years every [pitcher] was trying to pound me inside. It got to the point last year that I figured that out, and if you came inside, there was a good chance [the pitch] would leave the ballpark. So guys got away from that because they saw I was loaded with that.

"Then they lollipopped me curveballs and I was still trying to do the same things with it. I got myself out of the grooves I'd been in in the past, and it changed my focus as a hitter."

Thomas was his old self this spring, with 10 walks and an on-base percentage above .440.

"I'm out of it already," he said. "I'm back taking what the pitcher gives me. Just trying to see the ball, smoke the ball and center it. I'm not trying to hit home runs."

Rolling along - Aaron Rowand hit .282 this spring with four home runs and 12 RBIs. Now he has to adjust to being a role player for the first time.

"It seems every year it takes me time to get where I need to be because I have so much movement in my swing," Rowand said. "Usually toward the end of spring and the beginning of the season, I start to swing the bat the way I know I can. I'm hoping to change things, but April has never been my best month. May is usually when I started getting in a groove."

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