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Harrell keeps White Sox rolling in debut

CHICAGO -- You better watch out Edwin Jackson, the White Sox apparently do have pitching depth behind you if things don’t go well.

Lucas Harrell turned his major-league debut into something special Friday, giving up one run over six innings to earn the victory as the White Sox defeated the A’s 6-1 for their 12th consecutive home win.

It isn’t as if there isn’t anything to work on, though. The 25-year old walked five batters and threw just 50 of his 97 pitches for strikes, but it worked nonetheless.

“I think [Triple-A pitching coach] Richard Dotson and [director of player development] Buddy Bell prepared this kid very well, and all the minor-league pitching coaches down there, minor-league coordinator, prepared him to pitch very well here,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “They were very high on him. We started talking about making moves and when we asked about somebody helping us at this level they were very high on him.”

It wasn’t an easy journey for the right-hander to get to his moment in the spotlight. There was a flight from Louisville earlier in the day on an airplane that was having issues with its air conditioning. Harrell arrived after the team took the field for batting practice.

But the even bigger trip to land in a White Sox uniform, seven years after he was drafted, was much harder. Twice shoulder injuries slowed his development even causing him to undergo surgery once and miss the entire 2007 season. He missed nearly half of the next season with a shoulder strain.

It was only right then that when he finally made it his parents were able to get to his major-league debut and they did it with relative ease. Driving to Louisville from their home in Springfield, Mo., Harrell’s parents were having lunch in St. Louis on Friday morning when their son called.

“Better start heading north on I-55,” he told them and his mom let out a scream of joy after putting it all together and realizing what happened.

The joy was short-lived, though. Harrell was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte immediately after the game, but the White Sox know what they have now in the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder.

“I thought I worked most of [the nerves] out in the bullpen, but when you actually get out there on the mound and you're in the game, it's the real thing,” Harrell said. “You start getting, not nervous, but your adrenaline starts pumping and you start getting excited.”

His make-or break moment came with the bases loaded in the second inning after he walked three batters. Daric Barton then crushed a ball to deep center field that Alex Rios was able to track down at the base of the wall.

“The one ball that went all the way to track to center with the bases loaded, if that ball goes out we have a whole different story, but it stayed in,” Paul Konerko said. “It's a big win because all these games matter so much and when you have a day when a guy gets called up and doesn't even know he is pitching 24 hours ago and you get a win out of it, that's good.”

With the White Sox’s home win streak on the line and the potential for the Twins to move a half game back in the standings, Harrell put it all aside and got it done.

“Don't screw it up, that's what the word was,” Harrell said about what he heard in the locker room beforehand. “I was like, 'I don't want to come in and screw this up.' It was definitely a good thing to go out there and do like I did.”

Afterward, while getting interviewed for the postgame show, Harrell got the traditional beer shower that goes to a pitcher earning his first big-league victory. He said it tasted like light beer. They must have been saving the good stuff for a proper celebration.

By the numbers

14: Games over .500 for the White Sox at 58-44. It is the first time the White Sox have been 14 over .500 since the end of the 2008 season when they were 89-74. The White Sox are also a major-league best 34-11 since June 9 and have outscored their opponents 236-133 during that span.

Quote

“A.J. came out to me and he just said, ‘Be yourself. Do what got you here. Use your sinker. Throw the ball over the plate. Get early contact.’ That's the kind of pitcher I am. I just kind of did those things and that got me back in the groove.” -- Harrell, on how he settled down after a shaky start in his big-league debut Friday.

Look ahead

John Danks (11-7, 3.23 ERA), who will take on the A’s on Saturday ranks third in the American League with a 2.21 ERA in July. Over his last four starts the left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA. In five career starts against Oakland, Danks is 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA, and has gone 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA against the A’s in three starts at U.S. Cellular Field. Danks will be opposed by Oakland left-hander Dallas Braden (5-7, 3.77), who halted a personal five-game losing streak when he defeated the White Sox last Saturday in Oakland. Prior to that win, opponents had a .319 batting average against him since his perfect game May 9.