OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul Konerko homered, rookie Alexei Ramirez made a case for a starting role and the Chicago White Sox beat the Texas Rangers 5-4 Friday night.
Konerko hit a two-run home run off Texas closer C.J. Wilson in the fourth inning, and Ramirez provided the winning margin by throwing out a runner at home plate. He also went 2-for-4 and drove in a run.
"I think Ramirez has done a tremendous job since we got him. I think he earned a spot in the lineup," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think he's been playing good everywhere we play him."
The White Sox got to see just about every reliever in the Rangers bullpen, with nine pitchers each going one inning. And another new face is on the way.
Right-hander Dustin Nippert, acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, claimed the final bullpen spot that Robinson Tejeda and Wes Littleton had been pursuing after splitting time in the majors last season.
Each of them threw an inning of scoreless relief, but the trade for Nippert had already been announced and the decision had been made.
General manager Jon Daniels said Littleton will be sent to Triple-A Oklahoma and the Rangers would either trade Tejeda or designate him for assignment to make room for Nippert, who went 0-2 mark with a 14.40 ERA in eight appearances this spring.
Daniels said the 6-foot-8 Nippert impressed Rangers scouts with his performance in 36 relief appearances last season, including 2 1-3 scoreless innings in the NLCS. After the birth of his daughter Friday, Nippert was expected to join the Rangers in Seattle on Sunday, prior to opening day.
"He's a big, durable guy," Daniels said. "He's been a starter in the past, so he can provide you some length out of the pen, but he also was good in short spurts and at times was effective as a late-inning reliever as well."
Ramirez bolstered his case to be Chicago's fill-in starter in center field by throwing out Marlon Byrd at the plate on a two-out single by Gerald Laird in the sixth inning to keep the score tied at 2.
Ramirez increased his average to .364 and impressed Guillen further with the throw from center field. Guillen still planned to consult with the rest of his coaching staff Saturday before making a final decision, but gave Ramirez his vote to replace injured Jerry Owens in the opening day lineup.
"I think he should be the center fielder," Guillen said. "The way he played center field, he should be."
Notes:@ White Sox 3B Joe Crede sat out with a bruised left ankle sustained when he fouled a ball off of it. Guillen hoped to get Crede an at-bat Saturday against the New York Mets and have him in the opening-day lineup. … Rangers manager Ron Washington expects Milton Bradley, who played right field Friday, to start the season at DH while still recovering from knee surgery. Bradley had a two-run single.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.