ANAHEIM -- Chris Sale was not close to perfect this past Sunday night when he pitched against the Angels at U.S. Cellular Field, regardless of how the scoreboard read.
The White Sox ace retired the first 19 batters and allowed just two baserunners, but he also was working through a cracked tooth on the back right side of his mouth that had become abscessed. Sale had that tooth removed on Monday.
"What happened was I cracked the tooth in half on our plane trip coming back from [New York] going to Chicago and I bit into something and my tooth went one way," Sale said. "So I actually pulled half of it out on the plane and got the rest of it taken care of.
"I wanted to do it after my start so I had enough time to get over it and be ready for my next start. I got put on laughing gas and pain medication. I was out of it for a couple days."
Sale joked that he was "a little loopy" the first couple of days after the tooth was pulled, but he has been training the last few days and should be ready for Friday's start. The dentist who performed the procedure was a Twins fan, according to a smiling Sale, but took good care of him.
Now the task for Sale is to throw another masterpiece against the Angels, a start that Sale considered even better than his 15-strikeout effort against Tampa last May 28.
"Any time you get an unexpected day off in the bullpen, it's always nice," said Sale, explaining why he picked the complete-game one-hitter as his top mound work. "I like taking care of those guys because those guys are coming in quite a bit, 60, 70, maybe even 80 times."
Scheduling leaves time to make up division ground
ANAHEIM -- With Thursday's first pitch at Angel Stadium, the White Sox continued a stretch of playing the Angels seven times in 10 days.
They have faced Kansas City, Cleveland and Minnesota in two separate series each from within their division, but the White Sox have yet to meet up with the American League Central favorites from Detroit. That first meeting doesn't come until two series before the All-Star break on July 9 at Comerica Park, beginning a run of 19 matchups between the two over the season's second half.
It's a scheduling quirk that gives even a third- or fourth-place White Sox squad a chance to make up ground quickly, as long as they aren't too far back come the start of July.
"And as long as we play better against them this year," said White Sox reliever Jesse Crain, referring to the South Siders' 6-12 record against Detroit last season and 19-35 mark over the past three seasons. "They are a good team and tough no matter when we play them. If we can get their number this year, playing them that many times, it would be a good thing."
"You put yourself in a position to play meaningful games in September," White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn said. "That's all you can ask for."
Despite the White Sox slow start with the bat and equally rough showing defensively, the team finds itself at the same 17-21 mark it stood at through 38 games in 2012. They then resided in third place, 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland, compared to currently being in last and five behind the Tigers at the start of Thursday night.
The White Sox won 13 of 14 after last season's sub-.500 beginning, claimed first place on May 29 and sat there for 117 days before a late-season collapse.
No AL Central team ran away from the pack in 2012, including the White Sox, and the same holds true in 2013. The one caveat this year is Robin Ventura's crew has a plethora of contests with the favored Tigers that could make or break them.
"Right now, on paper, but I don't look at anyone as favorite or not favorite. It's too early," Dunn said. "Whoever becomes the favorite is going to be the team leading in September, leading the division, that's the favorite."
"Obviously, you have to say they are the favorite," said Crain of the Tigers. "But right now we just have to focus on ourselves and play the game we know how to play and not worry about what everyone else is doing."
Rested Konerko back at designated hitter
ANAHEIM -- Giving Paul Konerko the first two days off in the three-game Twins series accomplished more than a mental and physical reboot for the captain in the opinion of White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
"He's a tinkerer, too, so he can go in the cage and tinker with things," said Ventura of Konerko, who hit .176 with one homer and five RBIs in his past 17 games. "He has the ability to do that without thinking he's going to the plate that night or the next night."
Konerko returned to action Wednesday afternoon with one hit and a run scored and was back in the lineup for Thursday night's series opener against the Angels as the designated hitter.
"Again, if you're feeling tired, I'd rather him just DH than be on the field," Ventura said. "Adam [Dunn] does a little better as far as his mental thing being on the field. I don't know if either one is a perfect DH to just sit in the dugout.
"Paul will play first base here, too, I'm sure. Today it's keeping it the same."
Better pitch selection helps White Sox bats heat up
ANAHEIM -- It's no coincidence that as the weather has warmed up over the past few days in the Midwest, so have the White Sox bats. The team posted a .330 average during a series victory against the Twins in Minneapolis and collected 10-plus hits in three straight games.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura understands teams have to adjust when playing in cold weather, but he also looks at the hitters' collective approach as a sign for possible extended improvement.
"You're starting to see better at-bats, even with [Jeff Keppinger on Wednesday], hitting the ball and squaring it up. With him and Adam [Dunn], it's a good sign," Ventura said. "You can have all the mechanics and everything else. It's pitch selection, what you're trying to do and how you're swinging.
"Once you get the mechanics down and they have that confidence they're doing the right thing, then it's about pitch selection. Eventually, you want everybody to get there, where you're concerned about pitch selection than mechanics."
• John Danks is scheduled for his fourth and what could be his final Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte Saturday night at Buffalo. Danks could return to the White Sox against the Marlins next weekend.
• Angel Sanchez is 1-for-5 with a double over his two injury rehab appearances for Charlotte. Sanchez has been on the disabled list since April 10 with a lower back strain.
• Over the previous 25 games, White Sox starters led the AL with a 2.77 ERA and also led in opponents average (.217), opponents on-base percentage (.273), WHIP (1.06) and baserunners per nine innings (9.87) during that span.