Heading into a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it seems as though the Chicago White Sox are on cruise control. The team reigns atop the American League Central with a record of 76-56, including an impressive 44-24 mark at home. The White Sox are about as prepared for the playoffs as any team in baseball. That includes the recent health of the entire ballclub.
In the past few months, key contributors such as Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grandal have returned to a lineup desperately in need of a spark. While Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and Yoan Moncada did an admirable job in their absence, it came at the cost of wear and tear.
The White Sox injury woes consisted of six everyday starters that have either missed significant time or have battled through soreness to stay in the lineup. That doesn’t include the injuries to bench players such as Billy Hamilton and Adam Engel, who have also endured lengthy injured list stints. Then we get to the pitching staff. Among the starting rotation, Carlos Rodon and Lance Lynn have spent time on the IL. In the bullpen, Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer, and Evan Marshall have missed time. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a successful season as a fan and expect a winning lineup every single day, at what point do you stop testing fate?
Luckily, this isn’t White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s first rodeo.
Sticking To Your Guns
This isn’t the first time La Russa has kept a close eye on his players’ workload. During one of the most dominant eras of St. Louis Cardinals’ history, La Russa often found himself at the top of the NL Central by the time September came around. On the way to the 2006 World Series, a year in which the team won their division with just 83 wins, star players such as Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Jim Edmonds were given blocks of rest throughout the season.
While it’s hard to perfectly compare the 2021 Chicago White Sox to a team from the past, it’s easy to see the similarities in how La Russa handles them. The 2006 Cardinals stayed relatively healthy that season, giving La Russa the chance to rest his top guys on off-days and non-divisional games. The White Sox, as detailed above, haven’t been so fortunate when it comes to health. That’s why it’s likely that La Russa will use the 10-game lead to his advantage heading into September.
Expect lineup mainstays such as Abreu, Moncada, and Anderson to sit. Rodon and Lynn won’t be overextended in efforts to save their best bullets for playoff starts. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Jimmy Lambert and Reynaldo Lopez make some spot starts to provide the primary rotation members some extra rest. Your team is only as good as your lineup in October, and in the end, October is the goal.
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