The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, the Sox's stellar performance in the face of a killer schedule and why they haven't gotten pitching help yet.

Do you think that Alexei Ramirez at shortstop and Chris Getz at second should be the White Sox double play combination in 2009? --Bruce J., South Bend, Ind.

I think there's a chance of that happening. But the Sox might try to get a more established player at second who can bat at the top of the order if they decide not to re-sign Cabrera.

Mark, why didn't the White Sox go after Paul Byrd, a proven veteran tested by the fires of a pennant race? What a great presence to bookend the staff with Mark Buehrle down the stretch. And apparently he could have been had by cash alone, not even someone from the Sox's paltry minor league system. The excuse by Kenny Williams that it's more important to bring someone in who's familiar with the coaching system, the ballpark, etc. is bogus. Apparently those considerations didn't matter to a truly serious contender like the Red Sox. --Joel, Charlotte

It didn't seem as if Ozzie or Kenny were upset that Byrd went to Boston. And if the White Sox put in a claim for Byrd, you can bet that the price would have been higher because they were dealing with a division rival.

I'm optimistic that the White Sox can pull through and win the division. But looking at next year, what starting pitchers are going to be free agents or are likely to be available via trade? --Chris D., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I look back to December of 2006 when Sox ownership and management freaked out over the rising price of starting pitching. That was a few days before they dealt Freddy Garcia to Philadelphia. I can't see the Sox acquiring front-line starting pitching through free agency or a trade. They got John Danks and Gavin Floyd through trades, and they acquired Vazquez while his costs were fixed and were able to re-sign him at a pretty good rate for both sides. Buehrle would have received more money had he opted for free agency.

There doesn't seem to be any pattern to using pinch-runners for Jim Thome late in the game. Typically, Ozzie Guillen seems to send in a pinch-runner if he reaches base in the eighth or ninth inning. However, on August 7, Ozzie didn't do so. In that game, the Sox had just cut the Tigers lead to 5-3 following a Carlos Quentin homer. Thome batted next, and he walked. Rather than bring in Dewayne Wise or Brian Anderson, Ozzie left Thome in the game. Paul Konerko followed with a double to the left field corner that bounced around. Jeff Cox waved Thome around, but he was nailed at the plate by a considerable distance. Sure, both throws were perfect, but I couldn't help but wonder if Anderson or Wise would've scored on that play, and why Ozzie didn't pull Thome. Any insight? --Frank Young, Grand Rapids, Mich.

I think Thome didn't represent the tying run, so there wasn't a sense of urgency to get a pinch-runner. Had Jim been held at third, I would have expected a pinch-runner for Konerko because he represented the tying run.

Did the White Sox get a contract signed with Jordan Danks? -- Jack Taylor, Plymouth, Ind.

Jordan Danks agreed to terms Thursday for a $525,000 bonus and is expected to join Class-A Kannapolis on Tuesday.

After watching ¾ of this season pass, it appears that this White Sox team has really good "chemistry", which is priceless over a long baseball season. I wonder if there is any chance now that some of our free agents might return. The Sox might reach a little deeper into their pockets and players might offer the hometown discount to keep what looks to be a good thing going. What do you think Mark? --T Maze, Wantagh, N.Y.

I'm not sure they will re-sign Orlando Cabrera, and Joe Crede's situation is clouded by his back injury. It wouldn't surprise me if Crede signs a one-year deal if he didn't get any long-term offers to his representative's liking.

Jim Thome is an interesting subject because of his second half resurgence, his willingness to hit to the opposite field, his ability to take walks and that he seems to make the lineup stretch out better. But Brian Anderson has to get a chance to play on a full-time basis soon, so that could mean moving Nick Swisher to first and setting up a situation between Paul Konerko, who is signed for two more years and has full no-trade rights, and Thome.

With Shawon Dunstan's arm and Harmon Killebrew's chest, Juan Uribe looks like the real deal at third. You think that means Josh Fields will be shopping for a first-baseman's mitt this winter? --David L. Beck, St. Petersburg, Fla.

The White Sox have plenty of players who can play first base. Josh needs to re-establish faith in the Sox's coaching staff that he can field well enough to be considered at third in the future, especially if Crede doesn't return.

Will the White Sox get any kind of return on Ken Griffey Jr.? It's been several weeks and this guy has done little other than whiff, look slow in the outfield, and show us that incredible swing, all without any meaningful results. Will we ever see him hit a home run in a White Sox uniform? Why didn't Williams address the need the Sox had going into the trade deadline—pitching, especially in the bullpen. They all stink. --Jose, East Dundee

According to two high-ranking officials from other teams, Kenny tried very hard to land a pitcher but came away empty.

As for Ken Griffey Jr., I agree that the Sox need more production out of him but I do believe that he makes the lineup much better.

Ozzie Guillen says defense is important, hence Juan Uribe over Josh Fields. Of the three center fielders, he plays the one with the lowest batting average, who is also the poorest defensively. --Dewayne Richardson, Costa Rica

You'll see more situational substitutions in center when Griffey starts there.

Have you examined the year's schedule with regard to out-of-division games? Interleague schedules don't match up and looking at AL games, I've discovered the White Sox play the Angels and the Rays 10 games each, while the Twins play the Yankees and Oakland 10 each (Angels only eight and Tampa Bay only six). And the Sox play Seattle only six and the Twins play them nine times. Not sure why it has to be that way, but if they win it, the Sox will have deserved it! --Dan, Franklin, Tenn.

As I write this near an airport gate late Sunday night after a three-game trip, I keep wondering about the goofy schedule. How about next year's tentative schedule that has the Sox playing Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers again in interleague play?

It's been a rough year for the schedule makers. And I agree that the Sox shouldn't be accused of backing in if they win the AL Central.