White Sox

How the White Sox will handle the Jose Abreu/Yonder Alonso timeshare at first base and DH

How the White Sox will handle the Jose Abreu/Yonder Alonso timeshare at first base and DH

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."

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski's most powerful month on the South Side

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski's most powerful month on the South Side

May 2005 was A.J. Pierzynski’s most powerful month in his eight years in a White Sox uniform.

Like plenty of other hitters dealing with the suboptimal hitting conditions of April — including teammates Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye — Pierzynski had a slowish start in the first month with his new team. A .269 average and a .329 on-base percentage hardly counts as an awful stretch, but Pierzynski had just one home run and only two RBIs in his first 19 games of the season.

That turned around in a hurry, and it started May 4 against the Kansas City Royals.

Pierzynski launched a two-run homer as part of a two-out rally in the fourth inning, the blast proving to be the difference in a 4-2 White Sox win.

Math aficionados will know that was just his second homer and third and fourth RBIs. But by the end of May, Pierzynski had eight home runs and 19 RBIs.

What changed? He unleashed the thunder in his bat, hitting seven homers while posting a .557 slugging percentage and a .903 OPS. All those numbers rank among the best in a single month of Pierzynski’s White Sox career.

The seven homers are the most Pierzynski ever hit in a month with the White Sox. The .557 slugging percentage was topped just three more times and not again until August 2011. Same goes for the .903 OPS, which was bested just twice.


So it’s not to say that Pierzynski’s offensive success in May 2005 was a rarity, as he was a good hitting catcher throughout his South Side tenure. But the specific power numbers were rarely seen again, certainly not over the following five seasons. So in a way, this was power from an unexpected source, and it helped the White Sox play eight games above .500 during the month.

As #SoxRewind continues moving through that month of May, we’ll see more explosive hitting from Pierzynski. The home runs came in a concentrated bunch from there, with the catcher homering in four straight games from May 14 through May 18.

But this one from May 4 was the very first, a helpful launch for Pierzynski to bust out of his early season power slump and the beginning of the most powerful month of his White Sox career.

What else?

— It’s hard to imagine that in the year they won the World Series, Hawk Harrelson wasn’t behind the mic for every inning. But this one featured the broadcasting team of Darrin Jackson and Donn Pall while Harrelson was recovering from corrective eye surgery. The man they called “The Pope” had a pretty nice career pitching for his hometown team, posting a 3.45 ERA in 394.1 innings out of the bullpen.

— Jermaine Dye hit one of his two triples of 2005 in this one. He sent a deep fly ball to the warning track in right field, and while Matt Stairs made an admirable effort, the ball bounced off his glove and rolled away, allowing Dye to make it all the way to third. He had to wait four months for the next one, tripling off Jarrod Washburn, the pitcher the White Sox faced in Game 2 of the ALCS that postseason, in an early September game against the Los Angeles Angels.

— Mike Sweeney was a notorious “White Sox killer” during his lengthy and productive career with the Royals. He drove in both Kansas City runs in this game. His numbers in 2005 were downright ridiculous in his 15 games against the South Siders: .362/.426/.759 with five homers, eight doubles, eight walks, 10 runs scored and 15 RBIs.

— Cliff Politte did an excellent job putting out Freddy Garcia’s fire in the top of the seventh inning. Garcia pitched another strong game, but he departed after loading the bases on a pair of walks and a base hit in the seventh. Politte entered with the bases juiced and only one out against the aforementioned “Sox killer” Sweeney. He got Sweeney to fly out, driving in one run, but ended the inning four pitches later with a strikeout of Ken Harvey. That sacrifice fly was the last of the scoring, as Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson finished off the Royals in another great job by the White Sox bullpen.

— I wrote about Jon Garland’s remarkable start to the 2005 season Friday. But Garcia strung together some sterling efforts, as well, in these early weeks of the campaign. With 6.1 innings of two-run ball in this game, he turned in a third straight strong outing. In those three starts, he allowed just five earned runs in 20.1 innings (a 2.21 ERA). He had a few more stretches that stacked up to this one during the season, but not many that were better.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 3, 2005: The Royals broke a 2-all tie with a pair of solo homers off Mark Buehrle in the top of the sixth. The White Sox clawed back, with an Aaron Rowand homer halving the deficit and a two-run double by Carl Everett in the eighth delivering the tying and winning runs. White Sox win, 5-4, improve to 19-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 5, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Buckle up, this is a wacky one.

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White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 8)

White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 8)

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. In our simulation, the Southsiders started 3-3, dropping a series vs. the Royals and winning a series vs. the Indians. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

After an unusual Friday off day, the White Sox bats continued to stay on fire against the Red Sox on a sun soaked day at Fenway Park.

Jose Abreu gave the South Siders an early lead with a solo shot off Brian Johnson in the first and was followed by an Eloy Jimenez RBI double in the fourth to give the White Sox an early 2-0 lead. After the Red Sox grabbed a run off Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox responded with a two-run homer from Yoan Moncada, his fifth in eight games this season.

In the eighth, with the South Siders up 6-1, Yasmani Grandal followed the long ball barrage with a solo homer off Heath Hembree. Grandal matched his new teammate Moncada with five home runs in the first eight games.

For the second straight game, Rick Renteria went to the Sox 'pen and they in return failed to maintain a big lead. Jimmy Cordero and Jace Fry gave up five runs in the eighth to shrink the Chicago lead to 7-6 lead before Steve Cishek stopped the bleeding. In the ninth, Sox closer Aaron Bummer had a high stress outing with two aboard with only one out before striking out Rafael Devers and forcing Kevin Pillar to ground out to Tim Anderson. He picked up his American League-leading fourth save of the season as the White Sox held on to beat the Red Sox, 7-6.

Result: White Sox def. Red Sox 7-6

Record: 5-3, second in AL Central (0.5 GB of Indians)

W: Gio Gonzalez (1-0)

L: Brian Johnson (0-2)

SV: Aaron Bummer (4)

White Sox lineup

Tim Anderson: 2-5, 2 2B (.353 BA)

Yoan Moncada: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI (.371 BA)

Jose Abreu: 2-4, HR, RBI (.250 BA)

Edwin Encarnacion: 0-3, BB (.214 BA)

Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, HR, RBI (.344 BA)

Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, RBI (.276 BA)

Luis Robert: 1-3, RBI, SB (.286 BA)

Nomar Mazara: 0-2, RBI (.207 BA)

Leury Garcia: 1-4 (.250 BA)

Scoring summary

Top 1st:

Jose Abreu homered to left field. 1-0 CHW.

Top 4th:

Eloy Jimenez doubled to right. Edwin Encarnacion scored. 2-0 CHW.

Luis Robert sacrifice fly. Yasmani Grandal scored. 3-0 CHW.

Nomar Mazar sacrifice fly. Eloy Jimenez scored. 4-0 CHW.

Bottom 4th:

Kevin Pillar doubled to right. Xander Bogaerts scored. 4-1 CHW.

Top 5th:

Yoan Moncada homered to left. Tim Anderson scored. 6-1 CHW.

Top 8th:

Yasmani Grandal homered to center. 7-1 CHW.

Bottom 8th:

Rafael Devers singled to right. J.D. Martinez scored. 7-2 CHW.

Kevin Pillar singled to center. Xander Bogaerts scored. 7-3 CHW

Michael Chavis singled to right. Rafael Devers scored. Kevin Pillar scored. 7-5 CHW.

Mitch Moreland singled to left. Christian Vazquez scored. 7-6 CHW

Notable performance: Gio Gonzalez was sharp in his first White Sox start taking a no-hitter into the fourth inning. Gonzalez gave up three hits while holding the Boston bats to only one run in six innings of work. Between mixing speeds and inducing groundballs, Gonzalez showed he can be a viable rotation piece for the South Siders.

Next Game: Sunday, April 5 - Gm. 9: White Sox at Red Sox (Reynaldo Lopez vs. Ryan Weber)