KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox, their fans and the two players involved got their first taste of the Jose Abreu/Yonder Alonso timeshare at first base and designated hitter this weekend.
After Abreu started at first base and Alonso at DH for the first two games of the season-opening series against the Kansas City Royals, manager Rick Renteria flipped the two for Sunday's series finale, with Alonso moving to first and Abreu to DH.
The timeshare between the two heavy hitters has been a prominent storyline as the season approached and now that it's here. Alonso, acquired in an offseason trade with the division-rival Cleveland Indians, brings pop and on-base skills to the White Sox lineup, improving what they can do offensively. There was just one problem: He played the same position as the team's best and most consistent hitter. Abreu might have had an uncharacteristically down season from a statistical standpoint in 2018, but he was still the American League's starting first baseman in the All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger. And he's made his dislike for the designated hitter spot known in the past.
Well, ever a team player, Abreu will be spending more time at DH in 2019 than in years past. His game totals at the DH spot in his first five seasons in a White Sox uniform: 35, 39, seven, 18 and 13. Alonso, though, hasn't spent much time there, either, with just seven career games as a DH prior to arriving on the South Side.
The White Sox see a benefit, particularly for the 32-year-old Abreu, who they argue will stay healthy and stay in the lineup if he's off his feet more often. That could wind up important should the White Sox eventually give Abreu a contract extension that keeps him a part of the team as it plans to transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode. The beloved Abreu has never played for a White Sox team that's finished above .500.
And so everyone's on board. But how will such a plan be put into effect? Renteria broke that down this weekend in Kansas City.
"Right now, I want to make sure that I allow them both to settle in in both roles," Renteria said before Saturday's 8-6 loss. "I just want to make sure they don't lose both their comfort at first and still be able to manage what they do at the DH spot. ... I do want to make sure I do put them out there, get them opportunities to play back-to-back days. So if you see me play Alonso at first (Sunday), you might see him the next day, as well, because I want to make sure they continue to stay under control at that position.
"I was real clear with both of them as how we were to proceed. And I was real clear with Yonder when we spoke on the phone once we acquired him of how I viewed Pito. That being said, I think both of them have mutual respect, they were in contact with each other, they both understood the ways I was going to try to manage their usage. I just wanted to make sure that, either one, it wasn't affecting their performance in the long run. I think we'll be able to manage it. When I play a guy at first, I want to do it, if I can, back-to-back days, allowing them an opportunity to make sure they get a comfort level on the defensive side of it. That's what I'm going to do. It's still so early, and we'll see how it continues to evolve, but that's how I see myself trying to manage their usage."
So expect to see just that: days at first base coming in bunches. Renteria elaborated Sunday, saying that after Abreu played two straight games at first, it will likely be Alonso there for the next couple games, then back to Abreu for another three, he hinted. Ideally, this setup will allow Renteria to keep both of those big bats in his lineup just about every day.
But Renteria also said that he doesn't have a set number or percentage of games that he wants to see one guy at first base versus DH. It's a mixture of a couple-on, couple-off plan and what the manager is feeling confident about at any given point during the season.
"I think I have to kind of do a little of both. Because you could have all the best plans in the world, and if things don't work out, you've got to make adjustments. So that's where the feel comes in," he said. "I think that right now, where we stand, I'm just trying to make sure they both get enough playing time that they get comfortable. And as we continue to roll forward, it'll be an opportunity where you'll have guys that DH three or four days, probably, and I've played them enough where I feel they can still get into a nice flow when they're defending, still work over there and continue to do everything they have to to maintain their sharpness."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.