video thumbnail

PHI@MIN: Pelfrey fans seven over seven strong innings

When White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod awoke the day after his June 10 start, he said the previous night's events resonated like a bad dream. A thick fog had descended upon U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago's opening game of a three-game set against Toronto, causing a one-hour, 10-minute delay for visibility concerns.

When hitters made contact with Axelrod's pitches, he had no idea where balls were headed. Axelrod joked after the game that at least he couldn't see the three balls that landed in the bleachers for home runs, totaling six earned runs against the right-hander on a lengthy night where his outing lasted a short four innings.

"Like, 'What was that? What happened?'" Axelord said he thought to himself the next morning. "That was a weird day, just stopping and starting. One of those weird deals that you can't prepare for that."

Axelrod hasn't pitched since that game, but he said he's back on track and ready for his start on Tuesday in the White Sox series opener against the Twins at Target Field. He'll have gone more than a week between starts after he dealt with some unusual soreness from the irregular workload in his last outing.

The fog game halted in the bottom of the third inning, when the vapor on the field became so thick, outfielders were hardly visible from the dugouts. During the break, Axelord sat on the bench, tried to stay warm, grew restless and headed to the clubhouse. Then he traveled out to the bullpen, cooled off, stretched, played catch and all the while tried to keep his mind in the game. It was a tireless effort to stay loose during an unpredictable fog that didn't appear on radar and could dissipate at any moment.

"That was a little harder on my arm than normal. It was a little more sore than normal," Axelrod said. "I was trying to anticipate when the fog cleared, and we'd come back and eventually shut it down."

Since the fog escapade, Axelrod has sat on the bench and watched his team continue to drop in the AL Central standings. The White Sox won the game Axelrod started in spite of his shaky start but have since lost to Toronto and dropped three of four to the Astros in Houston. Chicago enters the Minnesota series 2-12 in its last 14 road games and having just ended a four-game losing streak.

The Twins also struggled on their recent road trip, winning two of six games in Kansas City and Washington, which is why a trip home to face Chicago should be a welcoming series. Mike Pelfrey will start his 14th game of the season for Minnesota after he threw three all of last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

It's been a tough road back for the right-hander -- who owns the worst ERA in the Majors among qualified starters -- but he did show some progress in his outing on Wednesday. He lasted a season-long seven innings and allowed three runs against the Phillies while tying a season high with seven strikeouts. It was Pelfrey's second straight quality outing, he surrendered three runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Royals on June 6.

"He's got to an 0-2 [count] a lot and then it gets to 3-2, so he needs to work on putting people away," Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said. "But with his velocity and size, it's now a matter of command and I think he's getting there. The good thing is, he's going north and not going the wrong way."

He'll try to build off his last two starts when he faces the struggling White Sox. But while Chicago is in a rough patch, Axelrod said he feels fresh and ready to get back on the mound. The couple of extra days off have put the fog behind him and energized his arm.

"I feel good. I'm sure a couple days are nice," Axelrod said. "I think I match up pretty good against Minnesota, so I'm sure it's something they considered."

White Sox: Dunn not concerned with average
• White Sox slugger Adam Dunn enters Tuesday's contest in Minnesota with a .184 average and has had one full month above .230 during his three-year career for the South Siders. But Dunn also understands that a higher average doesn't necessarily translate to fulfilling his responsibilities.

"What bothers me is when I'm not getting on base at .350 or .380 or close to a .400 clip. Then I'm not doing what I normally do, what I need to do," Dunn said. "I don't care if I'm hitting .200 or .150 as long as my on-base percentage is .350 to .400 and I'm scoring X amount of runs and driving in X amount of runs. That's to me what matters."

Twins: Willingham hopeful to return Tuesday
• Twins left fielder Josh Willingham received a cortisone shot in his left knee on Saturday night and is hoping to return for the start of the Chicago series on Tuesday. He was held out of Sunday's game against Detroit.

Willingham is batting .231 through 59 games with 44 hits and 27 runs. He hasn't played left field since June 9. Instead, he has been restricted to designated hitter duties.

• Oswaldo Arcia made his second straight start in left field on Sunday, going 0-for-4 with a flyout and a strikeout.

Worth noting
• With their win on Monday, the White Sox avoided their first sweep in a four-game series since May 2-5, 2008.

• Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe snapped his nine-game hit-streak in a 7-3 loss to the Tigers on Sunday. He was hitting .375 (12-for-32) over the stretch.

• Dunn leads the American League with six home runs in June.

MLB.com Comments