Sox don't hit or catch

White Sox manager Jerry Manuel was singing as he breezed through the clubhouse Tuesday.

He chatted with visitors while signing baseballs and later observed a card game, joking with players Willie Harris and Jose Valentin.

With speculation ripe that a subpar road trip could cost him his job, Manuel remains unfazed. He's secure in his abilities and not about to change for critics who say his easygoing demeanor won't help his struggling team.

"I've been this way all my life," Manuel said. "I know what I do inside the clubhouse. People aren't inside the clubhouse or aren't involved in the one-on-one conversations. That's OK. That's the way this job is."

Though his team fell two games below .500 after Tuesday night's 6-0 loss to Mark Mulder and the Oakland Athletics, Manuel said beforehand he's willing to be the scapegoat.

"It's a silver lining that it's about me and not about a particular guy who would need to go to someone else to validate themselves," he said.

"I don't need validation. I've been a manager in the big leagues for a while. My first year, I might have been out there saying, `Hey, man, you think I can manage? Do I know what I'm doing?'"

Manuel said he's certain the Sox can rebound from their slow start.

"Adversity is something your team has to go through to be worthy of a champion," he said. "You've got to spill some blood. Championships aren't easy. You're going to have some casualties in a war."

After losing 10 of their last 14 games, the Sox tried to stop the bleeding in a cruel place. They couldn't do it, as Mulder threw the seventh shutout of his career.

The Sox lost their 10th straight at Network Associates Coliseum. The defeat lasted just 1 hour 49 minutes, their shortest game since a 1-0 loss to Kansas City in 1984.

After two more games with the A's, it's on to Seattle, where the Sox are 2-7 over the last two seasons.

"This is a tough week," Frank Thomas said. "If we mess around and get our butts kicked again this week, we could be in a hole for the rest of the season. It's no fun to play catch-up. We have to turn it around now."

The Sox showed no signs of doing that early in Tuesday's game.

After walking two runners to load the bases in the first inning, Mark Buehrle appeared to escape the jam when Ramon Hernandez popped up a 3-2 pitch.

Then the unthinkable occurred. Second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez barely got a glove on the ball. Then he kicked it. By the time Magglio Ordonez could retrieve it, three runs had scored.

The Sox appeared stunned. Had all the speculation about Manuel gotten to them?

"In order to be a champion, you must handle distraction," Manuel said before the game. "If you cannot handle the manager being talked about or the manager being fired, you might not be ready for a championship run. It's important to have some of that adversity along the way."

Manuel said he has not asked Sox general manager Ken Williams if he needs to be concerned about all the talk.

Williams has offered cryptic comments, at times indicating that he'll remain patient with Manuel and his coaching staff.

"We've had conversations," Manuel said. "But we haven't had conversations about where I stand. I didn't think it was necessary. [The speculation] has taken on a life outside, but it's not something that's inside the organization.

"The thing you hope is that it doesn't permeate within. When it does, I'm sure I'll be the first to know.

"And when I know, I'll let you know. `Cause I'll head onto the hills and [you can say], `We got ol' Jerry. He was tough, but we got ol' Jerry. He hung in there for six years.'"

Manuel smiled after that one. The Sacramento native was later asked if any of his family members planned to attend Tuesday's game.

"My mom's coming [Wednesday]," he said. "I told her I'll be here."

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