CHICAGO -- For the first time in his 11 seasons as a hitting coach, Greg Walker got a look at the visitors' clubhouse during the Braves' optional workout on Thursday. He was the White Sox hitting coach during some of the franchise's most productive seasons with the bat, including the 2005 World Series championship run, and quite possibly stands as one of the most underappreciated figures in Chicago sports lore.
Even in his second year in charge of the Atlanta hitters, Walker still has a strong Chicago bond.
"After the Braves, the next place I go to check is the White Sox to see how they did," Walker said. "Over the years, I was here for 20 years almost, the Herm Schneiders, the Roger Bossards, the people that I was with, you spend more time with those people than you do your own family for eight months out of the year. They're like brothers to me. That doesn't go away."
Walker exchanged pleasantries around the batting cage with some of his White Sox charges and the new staff during the White Sox early workout, and had dinner with his wife, Carmen, and Paul Konerko, and his wife, Jennifer, Wednesday night before Konerko left on his Minor League rehab assignment in Birmingham. Konerko has always referred to Walker as his hitting coach, with no disrespect meant to current hitting coach Jeff Manto, and Walker takes pride in the "small part" he played in Konerko's tremendous career.
"It's not just here in Chicago. The players all over the league really respect him and how he goes about his business. I get asked questions about him almost every day," Walker said. "He's had a special career.
"I hope he gets extended. I hope he gets to play a few more years and gets close to the Hall of Fame. That would be nice. He's about as professional as it gets. He's a tactician, a technician when it comes to the game. He's a very smart guy, sometimes to a fault. He's a special baseball player. I think players around the league, they all respect him more so than the average fan knows."
When Walker left after the '11 season, despite Robin Ventura wanting him to stay on, he knew it was time for a new voice in the White Sox clubhouse. He wasn't sure if coaching was in his future, but the Braves' job was a perfect fit.
"Two places that I played and grew up watching I got to be the hitting coach, so it's good," Walker said. "I like it. I ended up in a good spot. I hated to leave, but it was time to go. I might have stayed too long actually, but I knew there would be a day when I would say, 'OK, I'm not the right guy for the job anymore,' and I figured it out that last year about halfway through.
"Going through all this stuff we went through over the years, some of it good, some of it not so good, it got to be that was where the focus was rather than the actual job itself. I'm grateful that I stayed here as long as I did. I'm grateful that we won the World Series. We won a lot of games, the players had great years and made money. The White Sox were really relevant here for a long time.
"I hadn't second-guessed my decision to leave at all," Walker said. "Without a doubt, it was one of the better decisions I made because it was the right thing to do."
Peavy, Lindstrom want to stay, but aware of rumors
CHICAGO -- The White Sox seem to have a common theme running through the clubhouse where handling trade rumors are concerned.
Since nobody outside of Paul Konerko has complete say in a potential deal, there's no reason to spend much time thinking about them.
"As far as getting traded and stuff like that, I've been through that a bunch before," said White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom, near the top of the list in terms of interest from other teams. "I've switched teams six times in the last five years. Anything can happen at any point."
"I've never been in a situation like this. I don't know what to expect," starting pitcher Jake Peavy said. "I don't know what the communication lines are and it doesn't bother me that I don't know."
Peavy was traded from the Padres to the White Sox in 2009 and had to waive a full no-trade clause for the trade to happen just minutes before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. In fact, Peavy vetoed a May attempt by then general manager Ken Williams to bring him to the South Side.
Now the right-hander stands as another trade candidate for a contender if he can prove himself recovered from a fractured rib on his left side that has meant mound inactivity since June 4 in Seattle. Peavy was activated from the disabled list Friday and slated to start Saturday, with a plethora of scouts figuring to be on hand for that outing.
Lindstrom holds a 2.86 ERA over a team-high 46 games, along with an American League relief-best 11 opponents double plays induced and not having given up a home run over 37 2/3 innings. He shares a common bond with Peavy in that both of them chose to be with the White Sox, with Peavy even foregoing a potentially more lucrative free agent process to stay.
Neither of them want to leave. Then again, neither of them are really worried about their working address potentially changing.
"Things haven't worked out the way I thought they would go either as a free agent and knowing a little bit about this team and stuff like that," Lindstrom said. "You can't put your finger on any one thing. But I love the guys in this clubhouse. I would like to see us do something in the second half."
"I do want to win. That's the only interest I have in playing this game, is to find a way to be a champion," said Peavy, who has stated numerous times that he wants to stay in Chicago. "Do I think it can happen here? Absolutely. This year we put ourselves in quite a bind. That has to be [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and those guys' decision, whether I'm a part of it going forward or going to help bring a player in a trade, so we'll see."
Crain making strides toward return
CHICAGO -- White Sox reliever Jesse Crain played catch at about 70 to 80 feet Friday afternoon and saw signs of improvement from a shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list retroactive to June 30.
"Yeah, today I felt good throwing," Crain said. "I took the week off and today was my first day back and I think I felt better today than I did all last week.
"It started off real slow and when I got out there, it started to feel better. Hopefully it's on the way up."
Crain continues to take his injury day by day and refuses to put a date on his potential return, other than placing a goal of one week from Friday. He'll throw every day in trying to get the feel back, and manager Robin Ventura said that Crain probably would have to do a Minor League rehab stint before rejoining the White Sox.
"Once we get to that point, that'll be up to them," Crain said. "Obviously they want me healthy and to be back out there. If it's something they want me to do, yeah. We just have to wait until that time comes."
"If it was something like Jake [Peavy] had, his was more just because he's been gone so long and starting," said Ventura of Peavy's one Minor League rehab start Sunday. "Even for Jesse, I would like to see him at least get in a game somewhere in the Minors."
All-Star break chance for White Sox to start anew
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura looked at the All-Star break as a way to put the team's dismal first half as a distant memory.
"You know when you have that many days off in a row, you can kind of cleanse yourself of whatever the bad things that have happened," Ventura said. "You just start over again.
"It's like coming out of Spring Training again to where you can have a fresh start and go. Maybe the way you were swinging wasn't right or the way you were feeling. You can kind of come out feeling a little bit better and fresher. You want to win games, but again just clean it up. Defensively it wasn't good. Baserunning wasn't good, so that's stuff you want to clean up."
Third to first
• Shingo Takatsu, who picked up 27 saves over parts of two seasons with the White Sox and pitched for the 2005 World Series champions, will throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches and sign autographs before Saturday's 3:05 p.m. CT start. Takatsu posted a 2.31 ERA over 59 games during his 2004 rookie campaign.
• Travis Ishikawa, 29, agreed on a Minor League contract with the White Sox. Ishikawa has played parts of six Major League seasons with the Giants (2006, 2008-10), Brewers (2012), Orioles (2013) and Yankees (2013). He is a career .260 hitter with 19 homers and will report to Triple-A Charlotte.
• The rainout from June 12 between the White Sox and Blue Jays will be made up on Monday, Sept. 23 with a 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field. The game comes after a three-game set in Detroit for the White Sox and before their final two-game road series in Cleveland.
• Over June and July, before Friday's series opener, Adam Dunn is hitting .285 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and 27 walks against just 39 strikeouts.