White Sox quartet proud of first-half achievements
All-Star honors a result of club's surprising first-place standing
KANSAS CITY -- For Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy, it's the capper of a comeback. For Paul Konerko, it's yet another confirmation of consistency.And for Chris Sale, it's just plain cool. This 2012 All-Star experience means different things to the four members of the Chicago White Sox who earned the honor to be here, but they share the satisfaction of representing a first-place ballclub on a high-profile stage. "Some of these guys in this room," the 23-year-old Sale said with wide-eyed wonder, "are guys you pick on video games to play with, sitting around after school."
Dunn, by nature, was a little more subdued in his statements. But nonetheless appreciative. "It's a pretty good team," he said of the American League All-Star unit. "I would take it for 162 games." That's not happening, but this 2012 White Sox club has proven to be pretty good in its own right, and these four men are a big reason why. "The talent we have in our clubhouse," Sale said, "we all believe in each other and are pulling from the same rope." Some struggled to find reason to believe in the White Sox at the start of the season because of their relative youth around the diamond. But young and burgeoning stars like Sale have augmented the veteran presence afforded by the likes of Konerko, Dunn and Peavy, and it's placed the South Siders in first place in the AL Central at the break, with a three-game cushion. Sale is as big a reason as any for that standing. The White Sox lost a consistent ace left-hander in Mark Buehrle over the winter, but Sale has been a spectacular addition to the rotation, going 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA in 16 appearances, including 15 starts. When the White Sox wanted to move him back to the bullpen to ease stress on his elbow, Sale talked them into letting him back in the starting five, and nobody doubts that was a good decision. "It's just fun to watch him evolve into a pitcher," Dunn said. "He basically taught himself how to pitch. He'll throw 88 mph, pitch to contact to save his pitch count up, then go back to 95 and change speeds on his fastball. For a young guy to do that so early in his career is just fun. It's fun to watch." Sale deserved serious consideration for the AL starting nod, but manager Ron Washington opted for the Tigers' Justin Verlander for that honor, and it was difficult to doubt him. Sale will be available to pitch one inning in relief. "I thought about [starting]," Sale admitted. "But at the same time, I'm not going to sit here and tell you I deserve this or deserve that. I'm happy to be here, I'm excited to be able to pitch in this game." Peavy wasn't around at the All-Star media session to convey his excitement, as he was expecting to arrive Monday night after attending the funeral for close friend and mentor Darrel Akerfelds, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer on June 24. But Peavy is one of the best All-Star stories around, having battled back to ace-type form after having experimental surgery two years ago to reattach his lat muscle. Through 17 starts, Peavy is 7-5 with a 2.85 ERA, and, though the #TakeJake campaign in the "Final Vote" fell short, he made the squad Sunday, when he was named the replacement for C.J. Wilson. "I was happy, for selfish reasons, having him here with me but also for him," Sale said. "The way he's come out of that, people in his situation might not have been able to do what he's done, and he did it. It's a testament to him as a person and as a competitor. He deserves all the credit in the world." Dunn deserves credit for the resurgence he's put together after one of the most brutal seasons in Major League memory. He earned an All-Star selection for the second time and his first since 2002 by clubbing 25 homers with 61 RBIs, a .357 on-base percentage and a .502 slugging percentage. Those marks mask the .208 batting average that some might not think is befitting of an All-Star. "Obviously, you have to fill out the positions [in the All-Star Game] and it's about guys doing their job really well," Konerko said. "Adam's job is not to hit for average. It's to hit homers, drive in runs, walk, be a presence. If you look at that from that perspective, he's definitely an All-Star." Konerko is definitely an All-Star, too. His consistency, especially at the "ripe old" age of 36, is second to none, and he is now an All-Star participant three years running and six times overall. He earned this honor by flirting with a .400 average as recently as hitting .399 on May 27. He entered the break with a .329 average, 14 homers, 42 RBIs, a .404 OBP and a .528 SLG. With none of the four Sox stars in the starting lineup, how much or how little playing time they get in the Midsummer Classic is ultimately up to Washington. But their selection speaks to their impact on a surprising White Sox squad. "This is where you want to be at this point in the season," Dunn said. "You want to be an All-Star. And for it to happen is a great honor." The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.