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After suffering a pretty scary hit on the knee by a pitch, nobody would blame Jose Abreu if he needed some time off to heal. With Monday’s game rained out, Abreu got a day off, whether he liked it or not, but it seems he was ready to play.
Before the weekend, Tony La Russa mentioned giving Abreu more rest days in a postgame conference. Mainly intending to save his slugger’s legs for the final push come September and into October. There is also the benefit of taking a mental break as Abreu is having the worst month of June in his career. The month-long slump has tanked his slash line down to .241/.321/.433.
While we’ve seen Abreu convince training staff and managers to let him play, perhaps it could be worthwhile for him to listen to their advice. If the recommendation is a trip to the 10-day IL, Abreu could be back for the Baltimore Orioles series July 9-11. Or, he could take that weekend off and enjoy the All-Star Break before the Houston Astros come into town. Missing half of July usually is not a good thing for Abreu or the White Sox, but at age 34, it’s time for both parties to think about load management.
Resting Abreu for a couple of weeks could help energize the slugging first baseman for a postseason run. Another benefit is a trial run to see what Gavin Sheets or Jake Burger can do in his stead. Sheets is currently hitting .292/.352/.472 in AAA and is faring even better against right-handers .324/.359/.541 with six home runs. Foot speed is still an issue for Sheets, but he has been getting playing time in right field for manager Wes Helms.
Burger leads the Knights in OPS at .901 that breaks down to .301/.343/.558. The former first-round pick is also one of the Knights hitters performing better on the road than at home (Road: .321/.356/.560; Home: .278/.329/.557). However, there is a gigantic split difference between facing left-handers and right-handers for Burger. Against southpaws, Burger is crushing them, hitting .365/.411/.856 with six home runs in 56 at-bats. Put a right-hander on the mound, and Burger comes back to Earth .270/.311/.423 with 37 strikeouts in 111 at-bats.
If a call-up is indeed in the plans between the two AAA sluggers, it should be Sheets getting the nod. The White Sox need more help facing righties, and a two-week trial could help understand what they truly have in Sheets. Perhaps it could help Rick Hahn more time before finalizing a trade or another ball club’s sparks interest in Sheets if he performs well.
All of this depends on how the White Sox handles Abreu. If he convinces them that he’s fine and can play, then it’s back to the status quo. But if there is genuine concern about Abreu’s knee, perhaps it’s time for the Hall-of-Famer manager to convince him that taking two weeks off is not the end of the world. Sure, the White Sox will miss Abreu, but they’ve been missing his bat all month.
Michael Kopech close to returning
After throwing his second sim game in a week, it appears that Michael Kopech is close to returning, which is excellent news for the White Sox bullpen. Since being placed on the IL on May 31, the White Sox bullpen has a June ERA of 4.60 as the bridge to closer Liam Hendriks is shaky. Kopech could once again help solidify that hand-off while continuing to act as the emergency starting pitcher when doubleheaders arise.
Thanks to the waves of rain in Chicagoland the past week, it just so happens there are more doubleheaders on the White Sox schedule. With Monday, June 28 game postponed, it’ll be made up as a doubleheader on Monday, July 19. Kopech could make another start in the season to tease White Sox fans what is to come in 2022 and beyond.
Adding Kopech to the active roster means someone from the bullpen has to be sent to Charlotte. Ryan Burr replaced Kopech and is getting good results carrying a scoreless 10.1 innings streak in 2021. The strikeout rate could be better (23.5%), but Burr is generating ground balls 59.1% of the time.
If someone has to go back to Charlotte, it shouldn’t be Burr. Matt Foster is often the forgotten man in the bullpen, and for a good reason. In June, Foster has allowed ten hits and five walks in just 7.1 innings. That won’t cut it. There is also fellow 2020 bullpen savior Codi Heuer, who has as many strikeouts as earned runs (six) in 7.0 innings this month. Both Foster and Heuer have three options left and should receive the airplane ticket back to Charlotte instead of Burr.
Martyl Reinsdorf passes away
Marty Reinsdorf, the wife of White Sox Chairman, Jerry, passed away yesterday at 85. An accomplished jeweler, Martyl’s lasting legacy for the White Sox is the 2005 World Series ring that she designed. In addition to her jeweler, Martyl also produced coloring books for charitable organizations that helped kids worldwide.