OAKLAND, Calif. — There's still no timetable on when Tim Anderson will be back at the top of the Chicago White Sox' lineup.
The star shortstop is on the injured list with a hamstring issue that's frequently been described as general leg soreness by White Sox manager Tony La Russa. What started as a string of four missed games in late August has morphed into an IL stint with a heretofore unannounced end for one of the leaders and main bringers of energy on the South Side.
If you're confused by Anderson's injury — at how some seemingly regular soreness could sideline him for so long — you're not entirely alone.
"I don't know what it is, to be honest," Anderson said Wednesday in Oakland. "It's really just soreness. I know you're tired of hearing that, but you know, that's just what it is, really. I feel like it's going away. Hopefully I can get back in there pretty soon.
"It kind of flared back up when we played against the Cubs. ... I was just sore every morning. But I feel good now. Every day has been getting better. Being able to move around a little bit more the way that I want to."
Anderson reached an important step in his recovery Wednesday, taking batting practice for the first time in a while. But as La Russa has reminded since this initially popped up, Anderson uses his legs so much. It's how he's able to be effective in so many different aspects of the game.
The White Sox won't be whole until he returns, evidenced by their up-and-down play during his absence. At times, the offense has weathered the absence of their driving force. At times, it's looked lost without the juice he provides.
Anderson's still trying to bring that energy, promoting himself to head cheerleader in the dugout while he's been sidelined. But the truth is that if the White Sox are going to have any chance at achieving their championship-level goals, they'll need Anderson as close to 100 percent as possible.
That's the idea of this September IL stint, that it will allow arguably the team's most important hitter to heal up, get back into the swing of things and be performing at full capacity over the course of the regular season's final weeks. But unlike injured starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, who both said over the last couple days in Oakland that they're nearing their own returns, Anderson's return date is more of an unknown.
Still, that's not preventing Anderson and the White Sox from being optimistic that everything can come together in time.
"We know what the ultimate goal is. We know what we're trying to do," Anderson said. "We're trying to get healthy and come back as quick as I can, but also be 100 percent and be smart about it and know when to go.
"I think guys are going to get healthy. Guys are going to get in and get what they need. When October rolls around, you don't feel nothing anyways. Guys will be ready, for sure."
The White Sox have become adept at playing at less than full strength, of course. They surged to the top of the American League Central standings while waiting for Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to get through their respective months-long recoveries. Yasmani Grandal was out for a long stretch, too. Every step of the way, fueled by a mostly dominant starting rotation, the White Sox kept winning and kept getting contributions from every corner of the roster.
But missing Anderson hits a little different. Missing him as the season winds to a close hits a little different, too. As does missing him while simultaneously being without Lynn and Giolito, two more of the team's most important players.
Lynn echoed Wednesday what Giolito said Tuesday, that the timing of these injuries is nothing to worry about and actually a lot better scenario than an alternative.
"I think if you were looking at where we're at and we had to push through it to make sure we had to make a playoff push, instead of being able to back down a little bit and get whatever we need the last two weeks of the season," Lynn said. "If it's going to happen, it happened in the earlier part of September to where you can take a break that you need and be ready to go and ramp up at the end of September.
"I think it kind of worked out the best possible way it could have for where we're at."
Maybe that's how it plays out, and the White Sox' optimism will be proven warranted. But what is an absolute certainty is that the White Sox need Anderson for their World Series chase. The sooner he gets back to action, the easier White Sox fans can rest that their team will have such an integral piece.
"It's a long season. You know things like this are going to happen," Anderson said. "Just continue to keep pushing and doing the hard work and keep getting better."