Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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The drama is back in AL Central race for 4th

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: August 18, 2013 - 10:39 PM

The door to the Chicago White Sox TV booth was open 90 minutes before Sunday's game at Target Field. Ken Harrelson was in there with partner Tom Paciorek, so I walked in to tell the Hawk how enjoyable was the one-hour, MLB.TV documentary, "Hawk: The Colorful Life of Ken Harrelson.''

This wasn't blowing smoke. The documentary -- more interview than film of his career -- was a hoot. Find it, if you're fan of baseball, or characters, or both.

Later, Hawk and I happened to be waiting for an elevator in the lower corridor. I had been in the White Sox clubhouse, talking to Jake Petricka, the newly-arrived reliever from Faribault.

"The White Sox 2013 media guide isn't much good anymore, with all the changes your club has made,'' I said.

The Hawk shook his head and said: "This has been unbelievable. We were in first place halfway through September last year, and then gave it up. In spring training this year, I never saw this happening. Our pitching has been good enough to be right near the top. But we haven't hit at all, and it got to the point, management felt like it had to start moving people.''

The White Sox have moved outfielder Alex Rios, outstanding starter Jake Peavy, and veteran relievers Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton. Only one player in these trades came to the big leagues: Avisail Garcia, an outfielder considered to have a big future.

The Sox received five other players now in the minor leagues and still don't know what they might get for Crain. He has yet to pitch for Tampa Bay because of a sore arm.

"We might not be done yet,'' Harrelson said. "We have a couple of other veterans that are out there, I'm sure.''

This is the last year on Paul Konerko's contract. Does some team want a righthanded bat for the final month and potential playoffs, as the Twins wanted one in Don Baylor in 1987?

Adam Dunn is also gift-wrapped and ready to move, but he's still due $15 million in 2014. The White Sox probably wouldn't get anything significant from a contender even if they were willing to eat a large hunk of that.

The Hawk remains undeterred

"We got those four lefthanders in the rotation ... a rotation with [John] Danks at 28, and four starters 25 or under,'' he said. "These kids are pretty good. I think we have a chance to bounce back next year.''

Harrelson is one of the few baseball men who was surprised by the descent of the White Sox in 2013, and certainly he's among the few to expect a major rebound in 2014.

That said, I'm beginning to think the better team won the last three games of this series at Target Field.

I'm convinced that the battle that grips the baseball world -- for fourth place in the American League Central -- might now be headed in the other direction as the Twins and the White Sox enter the crucial final six weeks of the schedule.

The Twins were 10-2 vs. the White Sox and 54-65 overall after stealing the opener of the Target Field series on Thursday night. The White Sox were 46-74 and ready to reach the dreaded 30 games under .500. The gap between fourth and fifth was 8 1/2 games ... almost a laugher in the Twins' favor.

And then the Mighty Whiteys won the last three, including 5-2 on Sunday, and now the margin is 5 1/2 games. Last place for a third straight year is back on the radar for these sad, pitching-poor, clutch-less Twins (2 for 18 with runners in scoring position on Sunday).

The Twins' starters are Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, a sagging Sam Deduno, a so-far unimpressive Kyle Gibson and the soft-tossing Andrew Albers. The White Sox might take one of them for Danks, just to get out from under his contract. Beyond that, the Sox have one of the league's best in Chris Sale, and they wouldn't give up Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana or Andre Rienzo for any pitcher in the Twins' rotation.

You can also compare the lineups as presented on Sunday:

Chicago's Alejandro De Aza in a landslide over Wilkin Ramirez (or Clete Thomas) in CF.

Chicago's Gordon Beckham over Brian Dozier at 2B.

Chicago's Alexei Ramirez easily over Pedro Florimon at SS.

Chicago's Dunn easily over Ryan Doumit at DH (note: Doumit was the catcher on Sunday).

Konerko and Justin Morneau in a dead heat at first base.

Chicago's Garcia and Oswaldo Arcia in a dead heat in RF.

Chicago's Jeff Keppinger and Trevor Plouffe at 3B ... next?

Chicago's Dayan Viciedo over Josh Willingham in LF.

And Joe Mauer in a landslide over Josh Phegley at C.

Look at it. The Twins might not have the juice to outlast the Whiteys, and that's frightening.

 

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