Somehow, Jose Abreu started at first base and hit fourth Saturday for the White Sox. Somehow, he also homered and added a single.
“You don’t want to say anything hurts when you see a guy just get absolutely pummeled and then come out the next day and say ‘I’m good,’” Sox starter Carlos Rodon said. “There’s definitely no room for excuses when you see that. I would say it motivates each and every one of us in this clubhouse when our leader steps up and says ‘Nope, I’m going to play.’”
A day after his scary collision with the Royals’ Hunter Dozier, Abreu was checked by the team medical staff and given the go-ahead to play. Sox manager Tony La Russa said Abreu was eager to get back into the lineup after missing Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader, and would’ve been inpatient if he had to wait until Sunday’s series finale to return.
He made sure his return wasn’t wasted, and the Sox noticed.
“Sometimes when you try to explain to people just how special he is, you’ve got to give examples and tonight was a perfect example,” La Russa said. “The fight to come back and get in the lineup and get the two hits, that shows you this guy is rare, man. He’s one of the better ones. As good as anyone you’re going to find.”
Before the game, the Sox held off on releasing their lineup until they knew Abreu’s status. During a phone call to explain the delay, La Russa and Royals counterpart Mike Matheny concurred the incident was unique.
“We both agreed I don’t think I’ve ever heard that kind of collision on a baseball field ever,” La Russa said. “The fact that they are both going to come out of it without anything serious is really a stroke of good fortune. It was scary.”
A long-term injury to Abreu would’ve been especially frightening for the Sox, who are already without Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez for maybe the rest of the season. Those fears were unfounded, and the Sox can move forward with the reigning American League MVP.
Leury Garcia said seeing what happened to Abreu was tough for everybody, and they thought the outcome would be worse.
“But we know Pito, what kind of guy, what kind of player he is, what kind of human. And he’s ready to go,” Garcia said before the lineup was released. “I don’t know if he’s going to play tonight or not, but we thought it was going to be worse. And thank god everything is fine.”
Abreu was more than fine Saturday. He even fouled a pitch off his left leg a couple deliveries before the homer.
“None of us were expecting him to play today and let alone hit a home run,” Rodon said. “That’s the kind of leader Jose Abreu is.”
Abreu’s RBI gave him 704, moving him to 10th in team history.
By playing Saturday, Abreu appeared in his 998th career game. When he hits 1,000, Abreu will become the 29th player in Sox history to play that many with the team. He will also be the 66th active player to reach the mark.
Reaching the mark
The Sox have reached the 85% vaccination threshold for tiered players and staff. Among other relaxed protocols, hitting that mark means all vaccinated Tier 1 players and staff are no longer required to wear face masks in the dugout.
On April 11, the Sox announced that ‘‘virtually the entire White Sox traveling party’’ received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after the April 8 home opener. At the time, general manager Rick Hahn said he expected the team to hit the 85% percent mark once they got more access to vaccines for players and staff then at the Schaumburg alternate site.
As for Leury…
Garcia entered Saturday slashing .219/.248/.271 after playing only 16 games last year due to injury. But without Robert, Jimenez and Adam Engel (strained right hamstring), Garcia’s role and importance has increased.
Garcia didn’t use last year’s lack of action as an excuse for his slow start, and said he’s been working to find ways to succeed and get on base.
“I don’t worry about the past. I don’t worry about the last game,” Garcia said. “I just worry about the game that I play that day. I’ve been working — I’m still working — on my offense, and I think at the end of the day, I’ll be all right.”