White Sox’ season marks are poor overall, but they’re doing well in chemistry

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Yoan Moncada (background) receives encouragement from White Sox teammate Tim Anderson. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had to be held back, first by second baseman Yoan Moncada, then by first baseman Jose Abreu and finally by both teammates. Anderson tried, unsuccessfully, to snake his wiry body through the tiny gap between them.

‘‘I was going to put him in a headlock,’’ Anderson said after the game had ended.

Lest you think this is about Anderson’s altercation Saturday with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, it’s not. This took place the night before, in the second game of a five-game series between the teams. The man Anderson was going after was Sox third baseman Yolmer Sanchez.

During a pitching change, Sanchez had snuck up behind Anderson and whacked him in the head with his glove.

‘‘He slapped me,’’ Anderson said, laughing. ‘‘He slapped me in the head. He slapped me in the head, so I had to go chase him down.’’

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There is a chemistry between Anderson and the playfully irascible Sanchez that can’t be denied. Frankly, there’s a chemistry between Sanchez and anyone who’s willing to listen to his nonstop barbs and prattle. Fortunately, that seems to include all the Sox. But it reaches another level with the much softer-spoken Anderson.

‘‘He’s a great guy,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘We have a great relationship.’’

A special relationship exists on the right side of the team’s infield, too, between Abreu and Moncada. They are countrymen, both from Cuba, one a powerhouse hitter, the other the linchpin of this Sox rebuild. Abreu is a giant in Moncada’s eyes, a mentor and then some.

‘‘Yoan listens to Pito,’’ said manager Rick Renteria, using Abreu’s nickname.

But where on-field chemistry is concerned, one of the biggest keys going forward for the Sox is what continues to develop between Moncada and Anderson. They turned slick double plays in the series finale Sunday, one of the 4-6-3 variety, the other a 6-4-3, to quell Royals rallies.

Each middle infielder has exceptional range. Each has a box full of physical tools, though Anderson is tied for the most errors (six) of any fielder in baseball this season. Their work together — call it a chemistry course — has been improving, Sox coaches say.

‘‘It’s very comfortable,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘We’re still working. We’re still learning each other’s range, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to continue to get better.’’

They’re getting closer off the field, too. On more than one day in Kansas City, Moncada was lying on the floor, eyes closed, in front of his locker-room stall when Anderson roused him — with the head of a bat to the stomach once and with a tip of the shoe to Moncada’s glorious hair another time. Before one game, Anderson shoved his phone in Moncada’s face, forcing him to watch who knows what.

‘‘Yoan’s my boy,’’ Anderson said.

The Sox use the word ‘‘family’’ a lot. Their infielders sure fight like a bunch of hungry siblings — particularly during pitching changes, as Sanchez and Moncada displayed while shoving each other in the chest Sunday.

Old-schoolers might not love the antics. Some opposing players might scoff. The Sox are cool with it all.

‘‘These guys are family,’’ said bench coach Joe McEwing, who managed the team for three games in Kansas City while Renteria was in Texas after the death of his mother. ‘‘I love it.’’

When the chemistry is right, a whack with a baseball glove can be construed as less head slap than love tap. That’s the vibe the Sox are going for these days. It’s not so bad to be around.

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