Rain dance boosts Masset

Tribune staff reporter

With Saturday's rainout against Tampa Bay, the White Sox have three home games to make up in the heat of summer, and that could make Nick Masset one of the team's most important players before the season ends.

Masset could become the Brandon McCarthy of 2007, after being traded for him during the off-season.

McCarthy won two of the biggest games of the World Series championship season for the Sox in emergency starts two seasons ago, shutting down the Rangers and Red Sox. Without either one, the White Sox wouldn't have won the division.

Now along comes Masset, who made the team as a reliever but already has made one emergency fill-in start at Wrigley Field because of a rain-forced doubleheader against the Yankees.

By allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings in his big-league debut, Masset most likely has earned another start, or two, or three, although they may not come all that soon.

The Sox have a makeup day-night doubleheader against the Twins on July 6, another against Detroit on July 24 and then give up an off day Aug. 27 to make up Saturday's rainout against Tampa Bay.

"I'd like to be considered for a spot start whenever they need me," Masset said. "I'm ready to go anytime."

Last Sunday against the Cubs, Masset didn't know he was starting until the day before. But he would have to be held out of relief work for at least two days before a start.

"It's a whole different strategy to take into being a starter," Masset said. "There's a process, whole different plan of attack."

Like McCarthy, who believed he got stuck in the Sox bullpen in 2006, Masset said being a starter someday "is my main objective."

"He has a pretty good chance to be a great pitcher," manager Ozzie Guillen said.

But Masset will have to wait his turn because right now Sox starters are getting backed up and rested too much because of the weather.

Javier Vazquez, who was supposed to start Saturday with an extra day of rest, now goes Sunday. Jose Contreras will open the series Monday night in Minnesota against Johan Santana. The Sox don't have another day off until June 14.

"As a pitcher, you want to be on five days," Vazquez said. "The last time I pitched was Saturday. I wish it wouldn't wait that long, but with rain delays, doubleheaders, days off …"

The Devil Rays are expected to throw left-hander Scott Kazmir on Sunday, which will give a different look to the Sox lineup.

Toby Hall will start at catcher in place of A.J. Pierzynski, and Luis Terrero will start in center field in place of Darin Erstad. Also, Paul Konerko is expected back after missing two days because of a death in the family.

The lineup has been in a state of flux lately because of injuries and players missing with personal time.

But it's not what Guillen desires, and he has taken steps to correct it by moving Tadahito Iguchi back to the second spot in the order and Juan Uribe to eighth.

"I don't want to move Iguchi up and down," Guillen said. "He's swinging the bat better now."

Iguchi claims he doesn't care.

"It really doesn't make any difference to me," Iguchi said through interpreter David Yamamoto. "Hitting second or seventh, it's all the same to me. You have to produce.

"With our lineup, it's very explosive all over. So my focus is to get on base so someone can drive me in"

Iguchi most likely will continue to bat second even after Scott Podsednik returns from his strained adductor because Erstad is entrenched at leadoff and Guillen doesn't want the left-handed-batting Erstad, Podsednik and Jim Thome hitting consecutively.

But Podsednik's return is a month away, and by then the Sox could have even more games to make up, which could make Masset even more valuable.


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