SURPRISE, Ariz. (MCT) - Even with the security of winning no worse than the fifth spot in the White Sox's rotation, Gavin Floyd has created his own competition with himself. | MLB page
Floyd, pitching for the first time in an exhibition game since March 1, displayed enough glimpses of encouragement Tuesday during his four innings of the Sox's 7-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in 10 innings.
Except for a hoarse voice, Floyd showed few effects from flulike symptoms that caused his layoff.
"I thought there was kind of an urgency for myself to get back, and I don't want to miss too much time," Floyd said. "It's a confidence builder. You come in, (the No. 5 spot is) not guaranteed, but I've treated it like any spring training.
"You have to battle for a spot, and you battle with the catcher's mitt. Try to throw strikes. That's what I focused on."
With general manager Ken Williams calmly eating sunflower seeds while leaning back in his front-row seat at Surprise Stadium, Floyd allowed three hits and pitched at a comfortable tempo.
His performance gave the Sox further reason to set him in the rotation for the start of the regular season.
"We thought he would be a little weaker," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He went through a tough week with the flu and came out and pitched strong. If this kid believes in himself, he can be a (heck) of a pitcher. It's all about confidence.
"He needs to maintain. Not the stuff, but the confidence about pitching at the big-league level."
Floyd struck out Rangers slugger Hank Blalock on a 93 m.p.h. fastball and threw consecutive slow curves to retire David Murphy on a grounder to end the second inning. He broke the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a grounder to start the third.
Floyd did surrender home runs to Josh Hamilton and Ben Broussard in the second, but he pitched out of trouble in the fourth when he induced Broussard to fly to left.
Although Mark Buehrle was tagged for six hits in four innings Monday against Seattle, his turn will not be skipped for the rest of the exhibition season.
That will put him on course to start the March 31 season opener at Cleveland, followed by Javier Vazquez, John Danks, Jose Contreras and Floyd.
Floyd would make his first regular-season start April 5 at Detroit.
Most of the Sox's confidence in Floyd stems from the sharp curve that Williams has adored since the 2006 Arizona Fall League. It was that pitch that limited the Detroit Tigers to two runs in 19 innings covering three starts after his July 24 promotion.
After his outing Tuesday, Floyd went to the bullpen to complete his work.
"I was really weak when I was sick," Floyd said. "I ached and I couldn't do much."