CHICAGO -- True professionals such as the ballplayers who make up the 2013 White Sox never lack for motivation to go out and put forth their best effort in every inning of every game during a 162-game season.
That fact holds true even for a team sitting at 43-71 overall after Minnesota claimed a 3-2 victory in 10 innings in Game 2 of Friday's split doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field after winning the opener by a 7-5 margin.
But finding sheer daily excitement when falling more than 20 games out of a playoff spot and now 8 1/2 games out of fourth place in the American League Central? Well, now we've got a different story.
Enter Charles Leesman to correct that problem, at least in Friday night's contest.
The 26-year-old southpaw made his Major League debut and struck out eight over five-plus innings. It didn't matter that Leesman walked five or didn't get the win or was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte immediately after the contest.
He genuinely enjoyed every minute of the performance, as he so eloquently and humorously explained postgame.
"All day today, I couldn't wait to get to the park so I could take some stress off of me," said Leesman, sporting a smile from ear to ear. "From the first pitch to the last pitch, it was the most intense, exhilarating feeling I've ever felt. It was awesome.
"I was making sure I breathed, in through the nose out through the mouth. Even that didn't help. You are on cloud nine. It was so tough to kind of calm yourself. I wasn't able to calm myself, but I got through it."
This doubleheader represented a continued changing of the guard where the White Sox are concerned, as veteran outfielder Alex Rios was dealt with $1 million in cash considerations to the Rangers prior to the first pitch of the opener.
Jordan Danks started both games, marking the first time he has been in a regular-season lineup at the same time with his brother, John, who started Game 1 and finished with a no-decision. Blake Tekotte launched his first career home run to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning of the second game, coming two innings after Alexei Ramirez knocked out his second homer of the day.
Those outfielders, along with Leesman, were solid representations of the club's young talent, players who should contribute in the future, even if it's not in an everyday featured role. But Avisail Garcia was the player White Sox fans had targeted.
Acquired from Detroit as part of a three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, Garcia was called up from Charlotte to take Rios' roster spot. Garcia arrived right around the time Leesman officially made his debut, but didn't enter the action until striking out against Caleb Thielbar on three pitches with runners on first and third and one out in the seventh.
Garcia stayed in the game and played both center and right, before getting hit on the left arm by an 0-2, 98-mph fastball from Glen Perkins (28th save) to lead off the 10th, after Oswaldo Arcia's homer off of Dylan Axelrod (4-9) gave Minnesota (51-62) the lead in the top of the frame. The power-packed youngster showed off his speed by advancing from second to third on Gordon Beckham's fly ball to center, but he was stranded there, meaning Brian Duensing (6-1) picked up victories in both ends of the doubleheader.
Walter Johnson was the last pitcher from the Twins to win two games in one day, back in 1923 per Elias Sport Bureau, when the Twins were the Washington Senators.
"One of the strange things about baseball, I guess," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire of Duensing, who threw 1 1/3 combined innings. The first game he threw to one hitter and got a win, and this game he threw an inning and got another win. Right place, right time."
Getting a good night's sleep should help Garcia prepare for a start Saturday afternoon. He's as excited to be part of the White Sox as the team's fan base is to have the potential five-tool standout.
"I'm really excited they know my name, how big a crowd. I feel pretty excited because they cheered me," Garcia said. "I feel pretty excited because I have a new family now with new guys and new friends. I just have to say hi to everybody, and I'm really happy to be here."
"We knew he was going to be late, but once he got here, that situation kind of called for him being put in the game," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Garcia. "So we didn't really hesitate once he was in there."
More of the White Sox youth movement should soon be joining the big league squad, such as infielder Marcus Semien and right-handed pitcher Jake Petricka, to name a couple. Leesman should be back in September, but he will have the joy of Friday to live off for a while.
For a team sitting 28 games under .500, that sort of excitement might be the most it's going to find until the 2014 season.
"Five walks, you never want to see that," Leesman said. "But the five walks aside, I'm always the toughest critic on myself and I was very happy with how I did."