Joe McEwing in charge as Matt Davidson keeps homering; White Sox prevail in 11

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Joe McEwing. (Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Joe McEwing hit .248, .208 and .259 in his first three seasons of Class AA ball in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system. The following year, 1998, the Cardinals floated the idea of McEwing, then 25, going into coaching.

McEwing’s answer was to put the pedal to the metal with his play. He rose at last to Class AAA, and by season’s end was a September call-up. In 1999, he finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

A “super” star was born. At least, McEwing made a career of it, playing for the Cardinals, Mets, Royals and Astros over the course of a decade. Eric Davis, his teammate in St. Louis, nicknamed him “Super Joe” — a testament to his willingness to always don the uniform and put in work.

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McEwing was a utility player who learned to see the game from a variety of points of view — infielder, outfielder, starter, pinch hitter, etc. That experience, along with managing in the White Sox’ minor-league system and serving as a Sox assistant since 2012, has the 45-year-old pegged by many as a sure-fire big-league manager someday.

In the 7-4 victory over the Royals on Friday — as manager Rick Renteria was in Texas with his family following the death of his mother — McEwing steered the ship for the Sox, moving up from his usual role as bench coach.

He has designated hitter Matt Davidson largely to thank for his first managerial win in the majors. Davidson crushed his sixth and seventh home runs in four games this year at Kauffman Stadium, breaking that ballpark’s record for homers by an opponent in a single season with six games to go here between the teams. The second blast came in the decisive 11th off reliever Tim Hill.

McEwing will be the team’s acting manager during Saturday’s split doubleheader before Renteria returns to take the reins for the series finale Sunday.

“I believe that the role I was in as a player, you had to kind of be a manager in those circumstances because you never knew when you were going to get called upon,” he said, “whether it be pinch running, defensive replacement, pinch hitting, and so you kind of played along with the manager in all those situations.

“And then having an opportunity to manage in the minor leagues for a period of time, and then [with the Sox] as a third-base coach and a bench coach, you’re always thinking along with the manager and asking questions, what you can learn from and what you can use for yourself [as you] move on.”

McEwing had his fingerprints all over the extra-inning game, which wasn’t what anyone wanted the night before a doubleheader.

In the second inning, the Sox tied the game 2-2 on a one-out safety squeeze by Adam Engel that scored Leury Garcia.

McEwing also sent starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez out for the seventh inning, and then — after a leadoff hit and ensuing mound visit — kept him in the game to face Mike Moustakas, who had earlier homered. This time Moustakas singled, but McEwing allowed Lopez to face veteran Salvador Perez, too. Perez lined out to center, ending Lopez’s night with two outs and a 4-3 lead. The Royals tied it up off Nate Jones on shortstop Tim Anderson’s throwing error, which allowed Moustakas to score.

Some things went well, and some things didn’t. Lopez, among the AL leaders in ERA, was rock-solid again, allowing only two earned runs. Davidson continued to wail away here like a Hall of Famer.

But Anderson’s error hurt, as did a dropped pop-up by first baseman Jose Abreu in the first that allowed an unearned run to score.

McEwing can handle whatever comes. He knew back in 1998 that he wanted to manage in the majors. A change in personal philosophy helped him see the game more clearly.

“Try to take a positive out of every single day,” he said. “Do whatever we could to possibly help the ball club win that day. That allowed me not to carry things with me after a game and allowed me to think about what just happened, process what just happened, learn from it, get it out and not let it continue to weigh on my shoulders.”

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