GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It didn't take long for Alejandro De Aza and Alex Rios to feel right at home in the White Sox lineup for Thursday's 8-3 Cactus League victory over the Brewers.
De Aza led off with a single against Brewers starter Mike Fiers and Alex Rios followed two batters later with a two-run double during a three-run first inning. Two-thirds of the White Sox starting outfield was gone from Arizona for basically three weeks as part of the World Baseball Classic.
Rios started in right field for the runner-up from Puerto Rico and topped the team with seven runs scored in nine games. De Aza had two doubles and three RBIs as the center fielder for the unbeaten champions from the Dominican Republic over eight games.
Both players enjoyed the experience of representing their respective countries.
"The group of guys we had, the combination of young kids and veterans was perfect for us and it worked out very well," Rios said. "We enjoyed the whole thing."
"Thank God they give me the chance to go there and play," said De Aza, who replaced Carlos Gomez on the Dominican roster. "I enjoy it the most that I can."
There was a strange feeling felt by De Aza and Rios playing against each other with the championship on the line, and Rios acknowledged with a smile that De Aza will probably give him a hard time concerning the Dominican victory. Rios quickly added that the Dominican Republic had a great team from top to bottom.
Despite the loss, Rios believes his team's showing was important for the state of baseball in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
"We're a small island and we want to represent," Rios said. "We know our fans appreciate what we do and we do it with a lot of passion. We took a lot of pride in this event. To get so far in this event, it's important for the people at home."
"It's nice just to have them back," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You get a little more of a flow of how the lineup would go if that's the way you roll it out."
Axelrod preparing for whatever role is needed
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox starting pitching rotation lists Dylan Axelrod as the team's first hurler for Sunday's game against the Royals. Axelrod takes the spot of John Danks, who will begin the 2013 season on the disabled list as he works his way back from Aug. 6 arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
But the 27-year-old right-hander, who was out of organized baseball as recently as 2009, takes absolutely nothing for granted.
"I'm going to keep doing my work and if it turns out that way, then I'll prepare to do my best in that role," Axelrod said. "You get an opportunity, and there's no telling what can come from that.
"I'll prepare like I'd be there all season. I'm not going to look into things. I'm just going to prepare every day for my job."
Axelrod would pitch through at least a couple of rotation turns at the big league level, and that stint could extend to a month as Danks builds arm strength and tries to gain velocity. Axelrod has thrown 66 pitches as a high-water mark this spring and won't be counted on for complete-game efforts out of the No. 5 slot.
He will be given a chance to prove his value.
"We would have liked to have John ready and able to go, but we need to progress according to the time frame that his arm is on and hopefully that's not too many rehab starts or starts away from Chicago," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "Until that time, we are comfortable with the alternatives we got here, whether it's Dylan or [Hector] Santiago or some of the other options."
'Loose' Sale ready for opening assignment
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If Thursday's 8-3 White Sox victory over the Brewers were played as a regular-season contest, then Chris Sale would have been in line for a complete game.
Sale needed only 59 pitches to get through five innings and threw 75 over his seven frames. He actually threw another 25 in the bullpen because he needed to get his pitch count up and relievers Addison Reed and Matt Thornton were scheduled to work. With three strikeouts and three double-play grounders, Sale turned in the sort of effort he hopes to frequently feature when the games count in the standings.
"Regular season, that was close to a complete game right there. Pitch count was down, that's what you shoot for," said Sale, who allowed three runs on four hits. "I'm not going to be as sore the next day and will bounce back a little quicker.
"So far, so good, knock on wood. I feel loose, and I feel like my arm is bouncing back the way I want it to. With the programs we have here, it helps us out. I follow that, lean on these guys and go out there every fifth day."
One more Cactus League start is on tap for Sale, coming Tuesday either against the Rangers in Surprise or in a Minor League contest. He'll probably reduce the pitch count to go in fresh to his first Opening Day start. It's a start for which Sale has been prepared for a while.
"I've been ready for the regular season since day one and a half," said Sale with a laugh. "It's fun getting work in, getting prepared, but there is no denying that we're all excited for the season to start."
Third to first
• Relievers Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones both appeared in Minor League games Thursday at Camelback Ranch. Lindstrom went two innings and Jones went an extended inning. They worked on a variety of pitches and had good workouts, according to pitching coach Don Cooper.
• Ventura indicated the White Sox rotation would line up as Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana, followed by their fifth-starter selection.
• Floyd is tied for the Cactus League lead in strikeouts with 15.
• Following Thursday's 8-3 victory over Milwaukee, the White Sox optioned outfielders Jordan Danks and Blake Tekotte to Triple-A Charlotte. With the moves, the White Sox have 34 players remaining in Major League camp: 18 pitchers, three catchers, nine infielders and four outfielders.