Benches cleared at Comerica Park in the aftermath of Jose Abreu’s No. 21 hit by pitch of the season.
“I’ll say what I have to say to the appropriate people,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said in his Zoom media conference after the White Sox’ 8-7 win at Detroit on Monday. “But this is not the appropriate time, or people.”
In the ninth inning of a one-run game, Tigers right-hander Alex Lange threw a 97-mph fastball up and in off the plate, striking Abreu on his left elbow. As an athletic trainer walked with Abreu to first base, White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo was ejected from the dugout.
For a few minutes, the commotion subsided. But then Abreu tried to take second base on a ball in the dirt and was thrown out sliding hard into second. He and Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum exchanged words. As tensions rose, the benches cleared, both teams swarming second base.
Second base umpire Tim Timmons held Abreu back, guiding him out of the fray until White Sox rookie Gavin Sheets replaced Timmons, trying to calm his teammate.
“The guy’s the (reigning) MVP,” White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. “This was his 21st hit by pitch, so, that’s a lot of times getting hit on the body. … We’ve got to protect our guys. He’s no different. I thought the slide was hard at second base, but it was a good slide.”
Eventually, both teams returned to their dugouts and places in the field. and Play resumed.
La Russa has spoken up publicly before about how often opposing teams hit Abreu, regardless of the intention. Most recently, La Russa expressed frustration with Mike Wright Jr.’s ejection and suspension for hitting Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani a couple weeks ago.
“But our guys, three guys get hit (in one game against the Angels), one guy gets hit in the head, Abreu gets hit for the 19th time, and nobody pays attention to that,” La Russa said after news of Wright’s suspension came down. “There’s an unfairness there that upsets me.”
Abreu ranks fifth in hit by pitches in MLB. Asked Monday how Abreu’s elbow felt, La Russa kept his evaluation short: “You can imagine.”
The White Sox and Tigers meet again, this time at Guaranteed Rate Field, at the end of the week for a three-game series to close the regular season.
“If I was pitching (Friday),” Keuchel said, “I’d try to stick up for Pito myself.”