Sox rocking Central, not East

           The powerful lineup, solid-if-not-spectacular rotation and patchwork bullpen is getting it done for the Sox and their new manager. Does this sound like a surprise?

            Maybe not if we were talking about the team from Boston.

            Instead, it’s the Chicago White Sox making waves in the American League Central in a year when they were picked by many to finish near or at the bottom of one of the league’s weakest divisions.

            At 31-24, Chicago holds a 1.5 game lead over Cleveland entering play on June 6. It helps that they have the Majors’ leading hitter in Paul Konerko (.366), who also happens to be the game’s most underappreciated player as well.

Chris Sale, the 23-year-old lefty phenom, is 7-2 with a 2.30 ERA after the Sox decided to keep him in the rotation rather than put him in the closer role.

And how about Robin Ventura? The Sox legend-turned-manager has managed a bullpen that is 10th in baseball with a 3.42 ERA despite having a bevy of no-named young-guns.

The question, of course, is will it last? Chicago is indeed a young squad, especially when it comes to their pitching. Sale is only 23, and many of their relievers like Addison Reed (23), Hector Santiago (24), and Nate Jones (26) haven’t dealt with the grind of a pennant race yet.

But the lineup is battle tested. Konerko is as good a first baseman as anyone in baseball, and his numbers the last eight years will back that up. At 35, A.J. Pierzynski is still as durable (if not obnoxious) as he is productive. Adam Dunn is a near-lock for Comeback Player of the Year. And Alex Rios has rediscovered the touch that once made him a highly-touted prospect for the Blue Jays.

Whether those factors are enough to carry Chicago remains to be seen. But what the ChiSox have going for them is the fact that the Central is only a few tweaks above a cream-puff of a division. The Indians don’t figure to win more than 90 games, and the preseason darling Tigers have plenty of holes to fill. Meanwhile, the Royals and Twins will battle for fourth all year.

Regardless, hats off the Ventura (and of course Ken Williams) for making the Sox go in a year when they should’ve stopped. Williams, as we well know by now, is not afraid to make a big move at the trade deadline if his team is in the hunt, and it doesn’t look like Chicago will fade in the next month.

These aren’t your older brother’s White Sox of 2005 that cruised to a World Series title, but still may be a very competitive one worth watching through the summer. And for the record (31-24 to 28-27), a better Sox club than the one in Boston, at least for the time being.

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