La Russa maintains it's about sportsmanship

May 19th, 2021

White Sox manager Tony La Russa knows the focus should be on his American League Central-leading squad, which entered Wednesday afternoon’s contest with the AL’s best record by percentage points over the A's.

That focus has been diverted to La Russa over the past two days, after he said White Sox designated hitter made a “big mistake" with his 3-0 swing on a pitch from Willians Astudillo in the ninth inning of Monday’s 16-4 victory with Chicago leading by 11 runs at the time. But La Russa certainly wasn’t changing his stance during a pregame Zoom Wednesday, even when questioned if the matter of Mercedes missing a take sign -- which La Russa pointed out Tuesday -- should have been handled internally.

“After years of practicing this thing, I know there is a certain message you send about the way your team competes,” La Russa said. “What did I say about Mercedes? He made a mistake. He’s young. He handled it.

“It’s important for the Twins or anyone we play that we play with sportsmanship, and that’s not acceptable. Who doesn’t like that is welcome to their opinion. I understand what my role and the coaches are representing, how we compete. And I follow that philosophy as best I can.”

La Russa was apprised of ’s postgame quote Tuesday, where the right-handed starter basically said all bets are off when a position player such as Astudillo takes the mound.

“Let's get the damn game over with,” said Lynn when asked about the matter after pitching six innings in the 5-4 loss. “And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing."

La Russa did not agree a position player negates what he considers a matter of sportsmanship.

“Lance has a locker, I have an office,” La Russa said. “And at some point leadership is you’re supposed to represent.

“I'd be willing to bet there isn't anybody in that clubhouse that's upset that I mentioned that's not the way we compete. I walked around the clubhouse last night and nobody was giving me the Heisman.

“Evidently there is some chatter about it,” La Russa added. “I’m not going to say it’s much ado about nothing. It’s much ado about a little bit. He missed a sign. By the way, if he misses a sign and it’s a 3-2 game, he would have been talked to because you don’t miss signs.”

Third-base coach Joe McEwing acknowledged a take sign was put on for Mercedes at 3-0 during a Wednesday conversation with He quickly added the matter was handled and doesn’t see a disconnect between La Russa and the clubhouse.

“That will never be an issue here,” McEwing said. “This ballclub, this clubhouse, it’s extremely strong from within. So it’s all taken care of, and we support our guy and we fight for our guy. Everybody learns from so many different situations.

“He got caught up in the moment. He’s locked into his craft and what he’s doing. With pauses and breaks in between, you lose the count. I just think he was locked up in the moment. And rightfully so. You want that focus. You want that drive on every pitch. But everything was handled, and we are moving on.”

McEwing also had praise for the great story that is Mercedes, who entered play Wednesday with the top batting average in baseball at 28 years old during his first chance at regular Major League playing time.

“Nothing was handed to him. He’s gone out, worked extremely hard at what he does and grinds out every single at-bat,” McEwing said. “I can’t count on one hand where you say that was a bad at-bat. And his two-strike approach is remarkable.”

Injury updates

• Outfielder , who has not played during the regular due to a right hamstring strain, could soon be going on an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte.

, the White Sox first baseman and team leader, remains day to day with inflammation in his left ankle.

Abreu missed all three games vs. the Twins.

“There was some hope that maybe [Abreu] can play in the Yankees series,” La Russa said. “I just think right now, it's Wednesday in Minneapolis, just keep our fingers crossed.”