CHICAGO -- April has not been kind to Alexei Ramirez throughout his Major League career.
In fact, it has been downright mean.
Ramirez's early struggles began with a rough .121 April average as a rookie in 2008 and continued with a .214 mark in '09, .221 in '10 and .207 in '12. He hit .265 in April during the '11 season but dropped to .220 in July and .239 in August of that year.
Dealing with that cold early weather seemed to become second nature to the White Sox shortstop when he finished last April at .281. The fact that his average never dropped below .271 in any other month of the 2013 campaign illustrated Ramirez was becoming a more consistent performer.
That consistency has taken another major jump at the start of this season, evidenced by Ramirez's .420 average and 13-game hitting streak after Sunday's two-hit effort that was capped by a walk-off home run to give the White Sox a 4-3 win over the Indians. Ramirez currently leads the American League in average (.420), OPS (1.143), hits (21) and multihit games (eight), while ranking in the top 5 in four other categories.
Using the whole field has been a crucial adjustment for Ramirez's success.
"Pitchers are trying to pitch, and if I hit them good on one side, they are looking for another," Ramirez said through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz. "So I've been lucky to be able to pretty much hit the ball where it's pitched. If I'm getting hits in one area, then they are throwing to other areas. I've been waiting for [the pitcher] in that area too.
"Everything is about the preparation, I believe. You know, this year I've been working on that and being prepared. I have my routine and, obviously, things have been good."
Ramirez also has made just one error at shortstop to date. His April success with the bat could be a sign of a special offensive season to come, but Ramirez isn't thinking about the long-term ramifications.
"Yesterday is over," Ramirez said. "I'm just going to play day by day."
White Sox to host panel in honor of Jackie Robinson
CHICAGO -- A special panel discussion entitled "Jackie Robinson: A Catalyst for Change in American Society" will be hosted by the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday in honor of Major League Baseball's Jackie Robinson Day.
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Carol Adams will share their views and perspective on Robinson as a change agent in baseball and American society. The audience at U.S. Cellular's Conference and Learning Center will be filled with student-athletes from Chicago area high schools.
Marcus Semien, the team's current starting second baseman, also figures to be in attendance for the program beginning at 11:30 a.m. CT. Semien praised Robinson for not only breaking MLB's color barrier for African-American players such as himself, but for also giving the same opportunity to other talent of foreign ethnicities.
"There's a lot of talent in the world. It's not just here in America," Semien said. "If you look at our team, we are a very diverse group here, and we all get along as well. It's not like back in those days where guys had a problem with a person of color being on their same team, so it's a great time to play.
"I know he's a man with a lot of courage and a lot of heart," added Semien of Robinson. "It took a lot of that to be able to show up in Major League Baseball and hold your own. To be able to focus on the game of baseball, that's hard enough itself. Dealing with all the stuff that was going on at that time, he did a great job and opened a lot of doors for everyone."
Ventura not ready to make pitching-staff changes
CHICAGO -- The White Sox entered Sunday leading the Majors in runs per game (6.33), home runs (16) and on-base percentage (.359) while raking second in average (.285), OPS (.815) and slugging percentage (.456). Their pitching, however, hasn't been quite as consistent.
Felipe Paulino was unable to work at least six innings for a third straight start on Saturday against the Indians. Rookie Erik Johnson, who will open a three-game set against the Red Sox on Tuesday, took a step forward with his last effort at Coors Field, but he still has allowed 11 runs on 19 hits in just 10 1/3 innings.
Reliever Scott Downs has not recorded an out in three of his five appearances, while the bullpen as a whole has walked 24 and posted a 7.53 ERA over 34 2/3 innings. Much of the struggles can be chalked up to small sample size, but even in this reshaping mode, the White Sox won't wait all season for a course correction.
"You know the old saying, 'You're only as happy as your least happy kid?' That's what it is with a team," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You're always concerned about the guys that maybe aren't feeling as good or aren't doing as well.
"Is it the bullpen? Is it the pitchers? Yeah. I think when a guy only goes five [innings], you're concerned about him and you want to get him better. Hitters who aren't doing well, you do the same thing."
Ventura added that changes eventually are part of the game if things don't get better. As for a specific time frame, Ventura said that "you know when you know."
"That's just part of what we do," Ventura said. "It's possible at some point. Right now, I don't foresee it."
General manager Rick Hahn has repeatedly made the point that the White Sox won't rush any prospects just to get a quick fix at the big league level.
Sale credits Nieves with developing changeup
CHICAGO -- A.J. Pierzynski and Jake Peavy, who are old friends and former members of the White Sox organization, will be in town Monday night for a three-game series with the Red Sox beginning Tuesday.
But the arrival of Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was the White Sox bullpen coach from 2008-12, is not lost on staff ace Chris Sale.
Sale was a member of the White Sox bullpen in 2010-11.
"Actually, I talk to him quite a bit. What a great guy he is," Sale said of Nieves. "He was one of the guys that really developed my changeup in terms of showing me grips and things like that.
"Even when I was in the bullpen, he was still making sure I was keeping that sharp, even though I didn't use it quite as much," Sale said.
Per Fangraphs.com, Sale has thrown his changeup 30.7 percent of the time through three '14 starts. That number is up from 19 percent in '13.
Third to first
• Ventura confirmed that Avisail Garcia will have surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Garcia suffered the injury diving for a fly ball at Coors Field on Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.
• Adam Eaton has been pretty much what the White Sox expected, according to Ventura.
"He's scrappy and he comes to play every day," Ventura said of the White Sox leadoff man extraordinaire. "Those are just things that he has. He was like that every day in Spring Training, and nothing has changed here."