Thursday August 5th, 2010

The White Sox selected left-handed pitcher Chris Sale in the first round less than two months ago and this week he became the first member of the 2010 draft class to reach the majors. Sale will have an important role down the stretch supplementing All-Star Matt Thornton as the second lefty reliever in the bullpen for the ChiSox, who have cracked the Power Rankings' Top 5 for the first time.

Sale still has a lot to learn, though. He made the mistake of referring to his new manager, Ozzie Gullien, as "sir."

"My name's [bleepin'] Ozzie!" Guillen shouted jokingly in the clubhouse, according to FanHouse. "Don't call me no [bleepin'] 'Sir.' It's Ozzie!"

Guillen's rants -- most notably a recent one alleging discrimination against young Latin players that drew a rebuke from club management -- has been the White Sox' only source of trouble since early June. They were at their low-water mark on the morning of June 9, nine games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out of first place. Since then, they've risen to first in the American League Central by winning 37 of their last 50 games.

The Tigers have fallen off the pace, but the Twins loom nearby as a challenger in the division. And with Minnesota's three best hitters all lefties -- most notably Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel -- the addition of Sale could help make the difference.

MLB Power Rankings
1Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 2
The Rays' top pitching prospect dazzles in his late-season major-league debut, giving hope he could be a key contributor in a playoff run? Yep, sounds like 2008 all over again, when David Price filled that role. This year it's Jeremy Hellickson, who was 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA at Triple-A Durham, and then shut down the Twins Monday night, allowing just three hits, two runs and two talks over seven innings for the win. Hellickson was returned to the minors after the game but will be back soon, possibly in a bullpen role like the one Price filled two years ago to help the Rays reach the World Series.

With an embarrassment of minor-league riches that could help the major league club, including top outfield prospect Desmond Jennings, the Rays may be peaking at the right time and now look to protect their top ranking up near the Great Lakes with road series against Toronto and Detroit.
2New York Yankees
Last Week: 1
For nearly two weeks every one of Alex Rodriguez's plate appearances was greeted by a dizzying array of flashes, as fans tried to claim a piece of history in action and capture the swing that produced his 600th career home run. Pressing to get the home run over with, he instead prolonged the journey, giving fans 46 at bats' worth of non-historic footage, including an 0-for-17 slump, before finally reaching the milestone on Wednesday. A-Rod then missed the one picture he was supposed to pose for -- the annual team photo. He said he simply forgot, but maybe he had had enough with cameras. A team employee stood in for him, and Rodriguez will be digitally added to the picture later.
3San Diego Padres
Last Week: 3
Scott Hairston's production -- a .232 average, .313 on-base percentage and 10 home runs ? may be minimal on some teams but on the Padres he ranks second in homers and leads the outfield in average among players with at least 170 at bats. That's why trading for outfielder Ryan Ludwick was necessary. He has experience protecting Albert Pujols in the Cardinals' lineup, so filling that role for San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez should be no trouble.
4Texas Rangers
Last Week: 4
Nolan Ryan had 222 complete games as a pitcher, and none were as arduous as the one he finished in court on Thursday. It took a year after he and Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg thought they had a deal in place to buy the Rangers, but the two finally were awarded the franchise in a bankruptcy court auction Thursday morning after besting a bid spearheaded by Mark Cuban and Jim Crane. When the formal transfer of ownership occurs, Texas general manager Jon Daniels will finally have the backing to begin work on re-signing key free agents-to-be such as Vladimir Guerrero and Cliff Lee.
5Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 8
A-Rod's home run drought was nothing compared to the one Juan Pierre snapped on Tuesday. The light-hitting outfielder hit a breaking ball over Comerica Park's right field fence against the Tigers Tuesday afternoon, his first homer in 809 at bats, dating back to Sept. 15, 2008. It was the 14th of his career, but he didn't let it get to his head: Later in the game he did what he's paid to do, which is steal bases. He now has 499 of those and is in no danger of joining the 40-40 club, even for his career.
6San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 6
As talented a pitcher as Matt Cain is and as often as the Giants and Dodgers play each other, it was hard to believe that Cain had never beaten Los Angeles until Sunday night, when in his 15th start against his club's rival he finished the Giants' series sweep with 7 2/3 masterful innings. Cain, of course, is used to hard luck: He has a losing career record (53-59) despite a 3.45 ERA. That's because of poor run support, as he's received only 3.8 runs per game of help in his career, as compared to the 5.0 received by Giants' ace Tim Lincecum.
7Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 12
The Twins are streaking even without their right side of the infield. First baseman Justin Morneau has been on the disabled list with a concussion for a month, and ever since second baseman Orlando Hudson joined him with a right oblique strain, Minnesota has won nine of its last 11 games. Morneau, who was having an MVP-caliber season before he got hurt, could be back this weekend, just in advance of next week's road series at the division-leading White Sox.
8Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 9
As much credit is given, rightly so, to the Reds' offense -- it ranks No. 1 in the NL in runs, hits, average, slugging, OPS and total bases and No. 2 in home runs -- it ignores that they've had a premier defense, too. Their Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency is also No. 1 in the NL and, left fielder Jonny Gomes notwithstanding, and each regular position player has an above-average Ultimate Zone Rating, led by second baseman Brandon Phillips.
9Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 5
The suddenly slumping Braves have lost five games off their division lead in just two weeks. On July 22 they lead the NL East by seven games, but the Phillies have closed that gap to two and the Giants' hot July means the East's runner-up likely won't be able to settle for the wild card. Compounding matters for Atlanta is the loss of leading hitter Martin Prado, who was placed on the disabled list with a broken pinky finger, the same injury that derailed the season of the Dodgers' Andre Ethier. And the Braves had to suffer through a ninth-inning game-winning home run on Monday from the Mets' Jeff Francoeur, whom the club dumped last summer.
10Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 11
When Mike Sweeney, circa 2010, is the answer, the question can't be good: Who is a better option at first base than Ross Gload and Cody Ransom? That's what the Phillies asked themselves after Ryan Howard went down with an ankle sprain, prompting a waiver trade for Sweeney this week. Sweeney hasn't played more than 13 games at first base since 2005, nor has he played 75 games in a season since then either. The 37-year-old is just returning from back spasms, too, but the risk is low and anything would be better offensively than Gload (hitting .284) and Ransom (.190).
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