Shortstop Elvis Andrus happy to be playing ‘meaningful’ games for White Sox
“It’s all about winning,” Andrus said before his first game in a Sox uniform Friday in Cleveland.
CLEVELAND — Going around the league with the also-ran Athletics was kind of a drag. So coming to the White Sox, a disappointing team but one with a shot at the postseason, lightened shortstop Elvis Andrus’ outlook about the final six weeks of the season.
‘‘We were rebuilding; it’s always a tough one, especially for me,’’ said Andrus, who played his first game with the Sox against the Guardians on Friday after signing a deal for the prorated minimum salary for rest of the season. ‘‘I want to be in this environment. I want to be competing for the playoffs. Every day counts, meaningful games. I am really happy and pumped up to be here.’’
After Andrus was released Wednesday by the Athletics, the Sox pounced on him. With All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson likely out until the last week of the regular season after having finger surgery Aug. 11, the Sox were forced to play rookies Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa at shortstop when Leury Garcia went on the injured list this week.
Sosa was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Andrus, a player with two All-Star appearances, two World Series appearances and a career .270/.326/.369 hitting line.
‘‘He’s got a lot of game left,’’ manager Tony La Russa said of Andrus, who will turn 34 next Friday. ‘‘He plays the whole game, still fields well, can run the bases, has a knack for getting hits against good pitchers. Played in a couple World Series [one for the Rangers against La Russa’s Cardinals in 2011]. We’re thrilled to get him here.’’
Andrus also has slightly better numbers in the second half through his 14-year career and has hit well against the Guardians (.342/.409/.518) and Twins (.281/.323/.392), the teams the Sox need to overtake to win the soft American League Central.
‘‘Yeah, I love it,’’ said Andrus, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his Sox debut but said the ball always has looked huge to him at Progressive Field. ‘‘That was one of the things I saw when I signed with the team: ‘Ah, we’re going to play in Cleveland.’ I was like: ‘OK, that’s not bad. That’s not a bad place to start for me.’ Same thing with Minnesota. I always play really good against them.’’
Andrus, who still had some of his Athletics gear at his locker, was at ease while chatting with Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu and others before the game. He batted seventh against the Guardians and right-hander Triston McKenzie.
‘‘People talk about the player, the winner, the character that he has,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘So he’s going to fit right into our culture. We’re lucky to get him. Big debt of gratitude to the front office.’’
Andrus played with Sox second baseman Josh Harrison with the A’s last season, so there is familiarity in the middle of the infield. And he played behind Sox right-hander Lance Lynn, who started Friday, with the Rangers.
‘‘That’s the guy you want on the mound every four or five days,’’ Andrus said. ‘‘Unbelievable and kind of funny [that] my first game he’s going to be pitching. It’s going to make me feel a lot more comfortable, for sure.’’
Perhaps Andrus can help keep whatever spark the Sox have had going. At the very least, he adds sound defense and a proven bat and locks down a premium position in a pennant race.
‘‘The one thing that you appreciate, when you play many years, is having the opportunity to play meaningful games in September,’’ Andrus said. ‘‘That’s what I love the most about this game. It takes away the whole business and money side, and you concentrate and do whatever you can that day to win. It’s all about winning.’’