CLEVELAND—Despite sweeping a four-game series in Cleveland for the first time in 42 years and extending their AL Central lead to a season-high 12 games, the White Sox will share center stage on their home field Monday night with one of the best offensive players in their franchise history.
Slugger Magglio Ordonez is expected to receive a warm reception when he and the Detroit Tigers visit U.S. Cellular Field, but the Sox insist they're not obsessed with the return of their former teammate and his feud with Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
Paul Konerko said Sunday before the Sox beat the Indians 4-0. "We're trying to focus on things that are bigger and better. If we were a middle-of-the-road, .500 or a last-place team, this would be a bigger deal."
Sunday, Jon Garland became the AL's first 14-game winner with six shutout innings and was supported by home runs from A.J. Pierzynski and Tadahito Iguchi as the Sox distanced themselves from a three-game sweep by Oakland to end the first half.
"We definitely like where we're sitting right now" in the division, said Garland, who stranded seven runners. "But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves."
The Sox have coasted to such a healthy division lead that the three-game series with Detroit hardly rates as a Central showdown. But that hasn't stopped the lingering curiosity over Ordonez and Guillen, who have tried to downplay their late-April war of words. Two reporters from their native Venezuela have made the trip, and a crowd of at least 33,000 is expected for Monday's series opener.
This will mark the first time Ordonez will oppose the Sox since leaving for free agency last winter. Ordonez missed the first three series because he was recuperating from a hernia operation, but he left a lasting impression on his teammates after hitting 187 home runs and driving in 703 runs in just more than seven seasons.
"I just know that he was a great teammate and he's the best player I played with, period," Konerko said. "He was fun to watch and good to me, so I had no problem."
Even Guillen praised Ordonez for his contributions, nearly three months after using expletives to describe his former right fielder in response to Ordonez calling Guillen "an enemy" and claiming the manager got involved in negotiations that led to Ordonez's departure as a free agent.
"I hope there's 35,000 people who show up," Guillen said. "Magglio did a lot of good things for the White Sox. There's no doubt about it. It's unfortunate the way it [ended]."
Guillen also indicated he'd like to leave the feud in the past.
"The way we're playing, I'm not going to tolerate any questions about Magglio," he said.
Ordonez's departure eventually earned him a five-year, $75 million contract with Detroit despite a left knee injury that limited him to 52 games last year. He earned $14 million in his injury-plagued final season with the Sox, who applied that money toward retooling their roster with the additions of Scott Podsednik, Pierzynski and Dustin Hermanson, among others.
"My team has worked out better without him," Guillen said. " I hope he's healthy to help the Tigers. But we're freer to do something because we have the money around. Good thing it worked out for us."
Konerko and designated hitter Frank Thomas are curious to see the reception Ordonez receives.
"Hopefully, they'll respect him," Thomas said. "He gave this team everything he had every day. I think this stuff here between him and Ozzie, we can get past it, and I hope they do."
But the Sox's agenda remains singularwinning.
"I can tell you no one in the clubhouse is talking about this," Konerko said. "Our whole day revolves around getting a win. So everything else is a distant second when it comes to an issue."