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Thome smacks HR No. 504 in win
It has been six years since a team other than the White Sox or Minnesota has won the American League Central, and Twins closer Joe Nathan acknowledges the ramifications.
"It's a pretty good wake-up call for both organizations to come in next year and get after it," Nathan said Saturday before the Sox pounded 16 hits in an 8-3 victory at the Metrodome. "From the front office all the way down to the guys who work in the clubhouse, we've got to raise our level to compete in this division."
The Sox stepped up Saturday, as Jim Thome slugged his 504th home run and rookie Jerry Owens had his first five-hit game. Javier Vazquez (14-8) won his third consecutive start with an 11-strikeout performance over seven innings.
"The least we can do is finish strong and try to carry some momentum into next year," Owens said. "It's like an audition, trying to make a name for myself to have a spot on this team next year and contribute.
"By no means have I thrown in the towel."
But with Cleveland on the verge of clinching the division for the first time since 2001, emphasis has shifted to how the Sox and Twins will regroup, whether it's Minnesota surviving the potential loss of All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter or how Sox general manager Ken Williams will revamp his roster after a disastrous 2007.
Williams hasn't been shy about making bold changes, such as reshaping the lineup that produced a 2005 World Series championship. A retooled bullpen was 2007's major alteration, but it collapsed two months into the season.
Manager Ozzie Guillen expects Williams to make more daring moves, but he doesn't expect first baseman Paul Konerko to be involved.
"I don't think Konerko is going to be one of the guys [traded]," Guillen said. "We don't know, but I don't see that coming. I see [pitcher Jon] Garland saying, 'I'm going to get traded.' I don't think that's the right comment because we don't know that.
"One thing about Kenny, he will let you know what you need to know. If we put any one of our five starters on the market, someone will take it. You have to be careful of that and say, 'Well, why do these people want to take it and we cannot keep it?'
"I'm not just talking about Garland. I understand why he thinks about it because it seems like every year he's been [rumored to be] traded. But we're not going to play dirty with guys who were important for us. We're not going to lie to people."
Konerko, 31, has a limited no-trade clause and can earn full no-trade rights next May by virtue of his status as a 10-year veteran and the last five with the Sox. He is completing the second year of a five-year, $60 million contract.
Garland, who turns 28 Thursday, will earn $12 million next year but has grown accustomed to trade rumors dating to 2001. That year he was nearly dealt to the Angels with Chris Singleton for Darin Erstad, who launched his fourth homer in Saturday's fifth inning.
Guillen addressed the need for the Sox to improve their on-base percentage and reduce their strikeouts but stressed that help outside the organization will be tough to acquire.
"If we're going to talk about getting rid of the guys who struggle, everyone has to leave," Guillen said.