La Russa insists bad White Sox defense will come around

Two more unearned runs Saturday hiked the season total to seven in three games.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The White Sox made three errors (second baseman Nick Madrigal, first baseman Jose Abreu, right fielder Adam Eaton) in their first two games, leading to two unearned runs on opening night and three Friday.

Then they added two more unearned runs in the third inning Saturday on a comical error by center fielder Luis Robert, who called off shortstop Tim Anderson on Anthony Rendon’s popup, only to have it bounce off the bill of his cap for a two-out error that allowed the Angels’ David Fletcher to score from first. Jared Walsh followed with a single, scoring Rendon to give the Angels another unearned run and a 2-1 lead against Lance Lynn.

Manager Tony La Russa knows it must be better, but before Robert’s error, he insisted he wasn’t concerned about the Sox’ defense.

“We’ll have, in my opinion, one of the top-five, top-six defensive clubs in the league as the schedule gets played out,” La Russa said. “I’m very confident about that.

“We have a very strong defensive club. It’s just the way we started with some mistakes here or there. We’re going to be really good.”

Third baseman Yoan Moncada bobbled a ground ball, costing the Sox a double play Friday, but La Russa said it had tricky spin.

Hendriks on bumpy first save

Closer Liam Hendriks’ Sox debut wasn’t how he would have drawn it up, allowing a two-run homer to Shohei Ohtani in a rocky ninth inning of a 12-8 win Friday.

But all was not lost.

“We’re going to be on TV in Japan for about a month after that one, so it’s good to be building my brand a little bit,” Hendriks said.

Hendriks can take a mulligan, having been derailed for eight days because of a kidney stone late in spring training and having to wait through “the longest half-inning in history” in the top of the ninth. The Sox scored five runs to break open a close game in which Hendriks had entered with two outs in the eighth.

Hendriks needed 34 pitches to get four outs and his first save.

He ended it with a strikeout of Rendon and didn’t hide his emotions even though the outcome wasn’t on the line with the pitch.

“It was a little bit of relief, a little bit of frustration on my part,” Hendriks said. “Obviously, I shouldn’t have let things get to where they were, but it happened. At the end of the day, a save is a save is a save is a save.

“I got a little emotional at the end of that one. First outing in the black and white.”

Upon further review

La Russa came under fire for not challenging an out call on Madrigal’s stolen-base attempt in the seventh inning on opening night, and it’s fair to say the play was close enough and late enough in the game to be challenged. But a major-league source familiar with MLB’s replay operations said that video evidence wouldn’t have provided enough evidence to overturn the call.

The Sox lost 4-3. After his first game managing since 2011, La Russa alluded to a new rule reducing the time to make a replay decision from 30 seconds to 20 seconds, essentially admitting the trigger wasn’t pulled in time. But in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

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