OAKLAND, Calif. — Tony La Russa wasn't about to let his press conference end without talking about José Abreu.
It wasn't some sort of career evening for the reigning American League MVP, who at the plate was hitless but reached base twice and scored a run in the Chicago White Sox' 6-3 win over the Oakland Athletics.
But indeed the South Side skipper was right to shine a spotlight on what Abreu did in the field.
For a couple years now, Abreu's evolution into a very, very good defender at first base has been much discussed. He famously devoted his well known work ethic to improving at fielding his position, and it's visibly paid off to anyone who's watched this team on a regular basis.
Last year, when Abreu's name was right in the thick of the MVP conversation, his general manager made sure to lobby for Abreu's inclusion in the Gold Glove conversation, as well.
Well, who knows if Abreu will work his way into Gold Glove finalist status this season, but if he does, he'll have nights like Tuesday to top the resume. In addition to making some nice picks of throws to first, he made a pair of memorable plays, doing his usual thing of starting a double play at first and then tracking down a pop up, running a long way and making a sliding, over-the-shoulder snag for the second out in the bottom of the ninth.
So yeah, La Russa was right to bring Abreu up.
"Somebody's got to say something about the defense by the first baseman. I mean, what a show he put on," La Russa said. "Picking the ball on difficult, in-between hops, turning a double play. The last play on the pop up was just sensational at the end of a long night."
Once a less-than-stellar defender, Abreu has become one of the best defensive first basemen in the AL. All the more reason, of course, to keep him away from the DH spot, which he famously doesn't like, even if the White Sox like him to see him there every so often to get him some time off his feet.
That whole situation teed La Russa up rather nicely after Tuesday's game.
"I told him, I said, 'Man, you're right. You'll never DH again. You're too valuable out here,'" the manager explained. "He said, 'I told you.' I said, 'You won't DH again. Until Thursday.'"
Perhaps not the answer Abreu was looking for.
What the veteran first baseman is looking for, of course, is a World Series win for his beloved White Sox. It should come as no surprise that the reigning MVP has done plenty to get them there. His 103 RBIs led the world coming into play Tuesday.
But his off-field contributions are as important as his on-field ones, and it's his experience inside the White Sox' clubhouse that will help him lead the team through the regular season's final month and into October.
You don't need to see him busting it down the right-field line and sliding to catch a pop up to know that Abreu's going to leave it all on the field for this White Sox team. But he's going to do it anyway.
"He does it the first day of spring training. That's just how he's wired," La Russa said. "That's why he's very, very special, and that's why a lot that's gone on with this club that's gotten us where we are is because of what happens in that clubhouse."
Abreu's defense figures to be another premium asset for a team chasing a championship this fall, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see plays like the ones he made Tuesday all throughout the postseason.
Of course, nothing about Abreu doing something good — no matter the facet of the game — comes as much of a surprise anymore. He's got that statue locked up for a reason.
"He played great defense today. He's been doing that for a very long time. That's nothing new," White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I think we've been used to it by now.
"I think the last play, the fly ball, that was a big play. That just shows you how good he is there."