White Sox opt to take safe route with slugger's ailing left ankle
HOUSTON -- Jose Abreu made every effort possible to play through the ongoing pain in his left ankle for at least the past 10 days to two weeks.
He even managed to deliver a game-winning, three-run homer Wednesday in Oakland while playing at far less than full strength. But watching how much Abreu's movement, let alone his overall game, was hampered on Saturday pushed the White Sox to put their breakout star on the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday's series finale in Houston with posterior tibial tendinitis in his left ankle.
"It became clear to everyone who saw the game yesterday where it got to the point where he was basically playing on one leg," general manager Rick Hahn said of Abreu. "That obviously wasn't going to work to get him to maximize his ability, much less him being fully healthy. We made the decision to err on the side of caution here."
"You could tell yesterday, when he went to swing, it was like his foot going over fire," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko. "No matter how tough you are, and he's a tough kid, there was just no getting through that type of pain."
Abreu returned to Chicago on Sunday morning and was examined by Dr. Nik Verma and Dr. Simon Lee of Midwest Orthopedics. He was placed in a boot to immobilize the ankle and help facilitate the recovery process, and he also will undergo further tests such as another MRI and further treatment for at least another day in Chicago.
"We're being as diligent as possible and ruling out any other potential issues in there," Hahn said.
During the first six weeks of the 2014 season, Abreu has been a true revelation throughout the game, let alone Chicago. The 27-year-old is hitting .260 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs. He leads the Majors in homers and is tied for the lead in extra-base hits at 27. He had started the last eight games at designated hitter to help alleviate some of the ankle pain and actually talked about feeling better Friday following Thursday's team off-day.
But Saturday was a step backward, with Abreu moving slowly down the line on a first-inning double-play grounder and moving even slower back to the dugout after the inning. Manager Robin Ventura pinch-hit for Abreu with Konerko in the seventh, when a swing in Abreu's previous at-bat just didn't look right.
While Abreu had fought to stay in the lineup, he understood Saturday that he needed to get the ankle healthy first and foremost. Ventura doesn't believe that a one- or two-day rest would have made a difference in Abreu's long-term prognosis, with the extended rest emerging as the best answer.
Hahn didn't deem it worthwhile to go back and second-guess the treatment regimen.
"We have a great deal of faith in our doctors and well as our players' ability to communicate exactly what they're feeling," Hahn said. "Obviously, Jose won a game for us on Wednesday and very much fought the extra day of rest we had discussed giving him on Friday in Houston. It just got to the point it was clear we were going to have to take a step back for the long-term benefit of his recovery and take whatever time is necessary to get this thing right -- as opposed to going back and forth every few days and letting him try to fight through it.
"I know that Jose certainly would have wanted to fight through this and stay in the lineup. That's how his makeup is, and it speaks to his competitiveness as well as the type of player he's going to be for us for a long time, that he wanted to do everything he could to remain on the field. Ultimately, we had to take the decision out of his hands and do what we feel is the more cautious and more prudent route toward getting him healthy for the long term."
This extended Abreu absence means that Konerko and Adam Dunn will be splitting time at first base and designated hitter. The White Sox hope to have Abreu back at the end of this 15-day stint, but much like the present scenario with Chris Sale, Hahn is not putting any specific timetable on Abreu's recovery.
A left ankle sprain slowed Abreu in Spring Training, and even though this injury is different from the first one, Hahn said that the team has imparted upon Abreu to keep an open and honest line of communication concerning how he is feeling. Abreu tried to fight through the discomfort, earning as much respect with that fortitude as his 400-foot homers, but a trip to the DL became the most prudent choice.
"You don't want to throw away 20 games or just keep playing on it and the next thing you know you're in a hole you can't get out of. It's just not smart," Konerko said. "He's been playing on that thing, seems like two or three weeks, it's been bothering him -- or at least something in his ankle has been bothering him -- since Spring Training.
"He's been coming every day. They've even asked him to take days off and all that, and he's still gone back out there and asked to play. He's earned a lot of respect for that time, not just because of the way he swung it, probably not at all because of the way he swung it. All because of that toughness of being out in the field. Guys remember that stuff. It's great of him to be like that."