KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jose Abreu’s injury could be the one that pushes the White Sox over the top.
Somehow, some way, the White Sox have managed to stay near the .500 mark through the first quarter of the season despite a plague of debilitating injuries.
At this point, it’s almost easier to recognize the players who haven’t suffered an injury than those who have.
The centerpiece of a rejuvenated offense, Abreu is the most significant injury to date in a highly reputable bunch of White Sox to hit the disabled list this season. Already, Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Conor Gillaspie, Gordon Beckham, Nate Jones and Felipe Paulino have gone on the DL.
Still, entering Monday’s series opener at the Kauffmann Stadium, the White Sox record stood at a respectable 21-24 even though the line of players receiving treatment now practically stretches outside the clubhouse.
The White Sox are fortunate to have Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko to fill in for Abreu, who leads the majors with 15 homers and is second with 42 RBIs. Still, this one could sting, manager Robin Ventura said.
“I don’t know if you can (replace Abreu) just because of the way he’s been swinging,” Ventura said. “You get him in the middle of your lineup and you’re different. I think we realized that early, but some way you have to fill that in and make due until he’s back. Then you hope when he comes back he picks up where he left off.”
The White Sox need to find a way to — or at least attempt to — match Abreu’s power numbers. A team that has already lost 169 games to the DL through Monday has lived and died by the long ball.
So far, the White Sox are 4-15 when they don’t hit a homer and entered Monday 17-9 when they do. Konerko brings more power and wisdom off the bench than most rookie replacements would. But he also is coming off the worst season of his career, finishing 2013 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs.
He didn’t waste any time Monday as his two-run homer to center gave the White Sox their first lead after they fell behind 5-0 in the first inning.
Konerko should have a chance to work out his swing with more consistent playing time and he feels good physically. However, Konerko said his only focus at this point is being ready if his name is in the lineup.
“I’ll just take it as it comes,” Konerko said. “I really have no agenda. I’m just being ready for them. That’s my only goal is to be ready when they ask.”
Ventura just hopes the White Sox continue to handle the injuries as they have so far, though he thinks it won’t be as easy. With Abreu in, the White Sox have scored 4.7 runs per game after they averaged 3.7 last season.
“It affects you somewhat because you’re used to having him in there,” Ventura said. “The effect of him not being in there is different. I don’t know if you can start overplaying and trying to do too much. If you do that then you’re not doing what makes you a good baseball player. Guys have to stay within themselves. You do have to take advantage of the opportunities you have.”
Sale said the White Sox have to do something else to rid themselves of this rash of injuries. If they continue to occur the two-time All-Star might be open to hiring a witch doctor or sacrificing a live chicken, anything to rid the White Sox of this epidemic.
“We have to disinfect the clubhouse,” said Sale, who is nearing a return. “We’re getting bit by the bug. Something’s going on. But you look around baseball and we’re doing a little better than most. You look around baseball — there’s freakish things happening around baseball for some reason, with pitchers and guys on field with obliques. Be thankful it’s not more.”