DETROIT -- Israel Del Toro was selected as the White Sox winner in the Tribute for Heroes campaign, as announced by Major League Baseball and People magazine on Wednesday. This is a national initiative recognizing veterans and military services members that builds upon both organizations' commitment to honoring our country's heroes, as described in the press release.
Del Toro, who will be included with the other 29 winners in All-Star week festivities in New York, has an especially moving and compelling story as told on tributeforheroes.com. The native of Cibolo, Texas, was given a 15 percent chance of survival after an IED explosion left him with third-degree burns over 85 percent of his body.
The Air Force sergeant was in a remote part of Afghanistan in December 2005 when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. But Del Toro survived, and after 120 surgeries to date, he is the first 100 percent disabled Airmen service member to re-enlist in the Air Force, currently serving as an instructor. He also recently competed in the Warrior Games.
This multiple medal winner speaks to students and military personnel, urging them not to give up on their dreams. He has been a board member of Operation Home Front, raised $25,000 for the Real Hero's Children's Charity, and participated in three home builds with Habitat for Humanity.
Peavy to make rehab start before returning
DETROIT -- The first half of the 2013 season will close with Jake Peavy pitching for Double-A Birmingham in Huntsville in a Minor League rehab start on Sunday. And Dylan Axelrod, who has made 18 first-half starts for the White Sox, will be available out of the bullpen this weekend in Philadelphia.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura isn't sure how the rotation will shake out past this weekend, depending on how Peavy and his healing fractured rib respond and potential moves made by general manager Rick Hahn.
"We've got enough days to kind of figure that out," Ventura said of the rotation. "I wouldn't see Q [Jose Quintana], he's throwing the last day on Sunday, so I wouldn't see him being the first guy out of the chute. It also depends on what Chris [Sale] does going to the All-Star Game and how they use him."
Peavy, who last pitched on June 4 in Seattle before going to the disabled list with a fractured rib in his left side, threw a 76-pitch simulated game Tuesday in Detroit, covering four innings. He would prefer to start for the White Sox Sunday in Philadelphia, but that idea was voted down by the organization.
There's clearly a desire to have Peavy as close to completely healthy as possible when he comes back. It would benefit the veteran right-hander, as well as the White Sox, who could be showcasing Peavy for a deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But the biggest focus is to not ratchet up the intensity too quickly without a little work in between.
"That would be foolish to try to send him out there in a Major League game, and risky," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, who said Peavy could go as many as six innings on Sunday. "Could he probably do it? Yeah. But is it a smart move? No.
"What we are really looking for is to continue to feel good before, during and after. So that frees him up for hopefully the next start here with us after the break. That's the main thing for me."
Axelrod could be the odd starter out when Peavy returns, but it's too soon to make a guess as to how the rotation will be configured one week from now. He needs to get back to his April and May form, as opposed to the 29 earned runs on 53 hits he has allowed in his last six starts, including seven runs and 11 hits in a loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
"He just knows how to pitch," Ventura said about Axelrod. "[Wednesday] night wasn't his normal stuff. He just kept going softer instead of trying to speed it up and kind of get in that hitting speed. He went below it just to kind of keep them off guard."
Hahn's door always open for concerned players
DETROIT -- The focus for the White Sox over the final 74 games remains the same as it was when the season started in April: Get as many victories as possible.
One major change in the last three months is that the White Sox have only won 36 times and lost 53, meaning a number of their players might have new baseball locales by the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31. It's the sort of situation that comes with the game, especially for an underachieving team, but it's not a situation that general manager Rick Hahn wants to take away from his players' preparation or thought process.
While this season is Hahn's first as GM, the open-door policy put in place by Ken Williams before him hasn't changed. And Hahn said that a couple of his players have taken advantage of that policy with questions about their respective future.
"They know if they have a question I'm going to tell them as much as I can tell them," Hahn said. "That started with Kenny 13 years ago. Guys don't have to guess around here what's on our mind. They don't have to guess what's the situation.
"A couple of players in the last few weeks have taken advantage of that to come up and be like, 'Hey, what's going on? Here's what I hope. We'll stay in touch over the next few weeks.' You want to be accessible so they don't have to guess. This is their careers. They have families just like the rest of us. You want to minimize the distractions so the focus can be on winning."
Hahn also understands that slumps fought through by a player such as Alex Rios, whose name has frequently been mentioned in trade talks, could be attached to the pressure of those rumors. In reality, even the best of players go through extended skids over a 162-game schedule, just as they occasionally get six hits in a game, as Rios did Tuesday. The right fielder went 1-for-3 with two walks in Thursday's 6-3 win over the Tigers.
"You get distracted at this time of year by rumors and by whatever else is floating around in the clubhouse or in the media, but that's not on them to worry about," Hahn said. "Our hope is to win as many ballgames from this point forward. The other things we'll take care of as opportunities arise. Winning is the most important thing still."
Hitting coach Baines happy for Big Papi
DETROIT -- A second-inning double from David Ortiz Wednesday night in Seattle made the charismatic Boston slugger Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader as a designated hitter at 1,689. He passed White Sox assistant hitting coach Harold Baines, who had 1,688 as a DH.
"He's a great hitter. Very well deserved," Baines said of Ortiz. "He's 37 now and has had a great career. I'm most impressed how he uses the whole field. He's a power hitter but he takes his singles. He knocks in a lot of runs. He's a complete hitter. He's a DH, but he uses the whole field."
Baines served primarily as a DH from the 1987 season moving forward, and he played just one game in the outfield from 1993 to 2001. He believes the designated hitter still holds a very important part in today's game.
"A lot of guys unfortunately get hurt, but their career can be extended by having the DH around," Baines said. "It saved my career. It added 11 more years because of the DH."
Third to first
• American League All-Star manager Jim Leyland said on Thursday that he offered Ventura the chance to coach third base in the Midsummer Classic in New York, but Ventura declined.
"I don't know if that's a good idea," said a smiling Ventura, who added that Leyland offered him to do basically whatever he wanted with the AL All-Star team. "We'll see when we get there."
Ventura will have his whole family in attendance in New York, with his oldest daughter currently living there while doing a summer internship. He's excited to be part of the All-Star Game as a manager, after making appearances in 1992 and 2002 as a player.
"Being in New York, and I played for the Mets for three years and the Yankees for two, it's a great place to have the All-Star Game," Ventura said. "It's a great event. I think anybody that's asked to go, you should go. It's that fun."
• Ventura offered up a great line about Josh Phegley catching Chris Sale for the first time on Thursday.
"Any catcher would love to get back there," Ventura said. "It's kind of like the first time you get the keys to a really good car. Don't crash it."
Phegley hit a grand slam in Thursday's win, his third home run in only his fifth career game.
• Gordon Beckham's .391 average against right-handed pitchers and .340 overall mark entering Thursday would rank him first and second, respectively, in each category, among the AL leaders if he had the necessary plate appearances.