Latest loss, decisions keep Tony La Russa watchdogs on alert

There is no getting around it, and it comes with the territory, Hall of Fame ring on his finger or not. White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s decisions will be scrutinized.

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Manager Tony La Russa of the White Sox looks on during batting practice before the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on April 06, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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There is no getting around it, and it comes with the territory, Hall of Fame ring on his finger or not. White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s decisions will be scrutinized.

The latest re-examination came in the wake of the Sox’ 5-2 loss to the last-place Tigers on Tuesday night, when La Russa was questioned for leaving Lucas Giolito in too long in the seventh inning and for not pinch hitting for Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia with two runners on in the eighth.

Afterward, Giolito said he “didn’t have much left in the tank” and when told, La Russa said he wasn’t aware of how his pitcher felt.

“Is that what he said?” La Russa said. “Well then, that’s my fault for not recognizing.”

A 2-1 lead turned into a 4-2 deficit during a 27-pitch inning.

The Sox could have used a game Wednesday to get the taste of a bad loss out of their mouths, but instead were rained out.

The game will be made up as part of a straight doubleheader Thursday starting at 4:10 p.m. Both games will be seven innings.

To his credit, La Russa has taken ownership of the decisions, most notably after a 8-4 loss in Seattle on April 8 when he let right-hander Matt Foster face eight batters while a 4-1 lead turned into an 8-4 loss.

“We were in an excellent position going into the sixth inning, and the best way to explain it is, I did a really lousy job managing that inning,” La Russa said at the time. “It really hurt our chances to win.”

That raised a red flag or two. And then there was Tuesday, when La Russa wasn’t aware that Giolito was out of gas. The media heard it from Giolito before La Russa did after the game.

La Russa said he reviewed the game on video.

“I’m paying attention during the game,” La Russa said Wednesday. “So, when it’s over, if somebody thinks I made a mistake, it wasn’t because I was distracted and falling asleep or anything.”

La Russa said Giolito looked strong in the fifth, which ended with a strikeout of cleanup batter Jonathan Schoop.

“I know [pitching coach] Ethan [Katz] talked to him in between innings and there was no mention [of getting tired].

“In the end, with the extra rest [seven days between starts] he had, I felt confident he could get it. I was surprised . . . when he said he felt like he was running out of gas.”

Lineup construction, bullpen usage, strategy and when to pull the starter are probed by media and fans everywhere, no matter the expectations for the team. That La Russa was hired out of a 10-year retirement by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to manage a team with lofty postseason expectations, under wide-ranging pushback because of his age and time away from the dugout, shines the spotlight even brighter.

When hired, the questions raised were more about La Russa’s ability to connect to the modern player and clubhouse culture. Few questioned his ability to manage a game, something he excelled at over the course of a career that saw him win three World Series titles.

La Russa said he welcomes discussions about strategy and back-and-forths with media when it comes to decisions he makes.

“The buck passes to the desk of the guy who makes the decisions, and that’s me,” he said. “So I take the responsibility.”

He has also managed this team for only 22 games, and is still getting to know it.

There are 140 games to go.

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