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Before the White Sox’s 8-0 loss to a right-handed starter who had the audacity and ingenuity to locate a slider on Saturday night, Reynaldo López threw a simulated game and declared himself ready to return by Tuesday.
This feels like it would’ve been a godsend during most months, but with Joe Kelly figuring out a winning recipe — 50 percent curveballs, 70 percent grounders, staying off the injured list — it feels like the White Sox have successfully hunted 900 pounds of reliever, but can only bring 20 back to the wagon.
López certainly adds depth, and he gives Tony La Russa an arm to sub into the troika of Kelly, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks when he wants to avoid overuse. That scenario just presupposes that the White Sox will have a cluster of games that necessitates the deployment of their winning bullpen, and that hasn’t proven to be the case. The prospect of healthy relievers returning can be thrown into the bucket as the White Sox’s easiest schedule remaining, in that the White Sox have to prove that either story matters.
Right now, the offensive morass remains front and center, and the two-hit effort against Dane Dunning made José Abreu the center of disparate news cycles this weekend.
Prior to the series, he apprised reporters about the stretch run of his contract year. Entering the season, he sounded uncharacteristically gray about what the future held, at least in comparison to his insistence that he would re-sign himself to the White Sox in his previous contract year.
But two-thirds into another strong season, Abreu’s still-circumspect answer had a little more joy in it.
“As long as I can or as long as life wants me to,” Abreu said of how much longer he’ll keep playing. “I’m in a good place right now. My family is in a good place. I’m in a very good organization here. We’ll see. I don’t put numbers or limits. We’ll see what life has for me, and I will go with it.”
(My theory is that he enjoys baseball more when he’s on pace for seven HBPs, rather than a score of bruises.)
After the game, Abreu returned to the gloomy kind of evasiveness.
There’s a risk in making too much of specific answers given through a translator when the subject matter is this grim, because it only takes one or two imprecise words to confirm priors and feed the beast.
If nothing else, it is a reminder that Abreu — who has played 17 more games than the next-most durable White Sox — is the only one in position to speak on behalf of the team. Yasmani Grandal probably should be the backup catcher. Tim Anderson is hitting .249/.287/.290 since coming off the injured list mid-June, and has as many pending suspensions as homers.
Abreu also said the Sox are searching for consistency …
… when the White Sox could actually stand to be more inconsistent. Consistency is a neutral quality, and in this case, the White Sox have been steadfast in their mediocrity all season. Their inability to gain meaningful separation from the .500 mark means that quotes from two months ago remain relevant. While I might not be inclined to make too much of Abreu’s quote, word for word in isolation, you can compare it to what he said about the clubhouse in June.
“It’s easy to blame the manager when things aren’t going right, but at the end of the day, it’s on us,” said Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo, during a 17-minute session with the media before the White Sox faced the Astros. “We are the ones who are performing on the field. The responsibility has to be on us. It’s easy to say whatever you want to say, or the critics will say whatever about the manager.
“But they are not here. They are not in the clubhouse. They don’t know how united or how good we are. Everybody knows we’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries. People don’t know how you have to overcome those situations and being able to play every day. They don’t know that. In order for them to blame Tony, that’s easy. But they don’t know how good we are in the clubhouse.”
So yes, the tone does seem different, and it probably has to be. And when you think of all the chaotic leadership crises Abreu has witnessed over his time with the White Sox — Robin Ventura retained three years too long, L’Affaire LaRoche, Chris Sale knifing throwback jerseys, and now all of this, one can understand why he might be a little more open to exploring new environments.