The White Sox had hoped Tim Anderson, who sustained a strained left hamstring earlier this week, would be back in their lineup for Thursday’s home opener. Ultimately, though, the team took a more cautious approach Wednesday by placing Anderson on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 5.
Manager Tony La Russa said the Sox have confidence that Anderson will be ready to rejoin the team when he’s eligible to come off the IL on April 15.
“He’s made great improvement,” La Russa said. “There’s the risk of bringing him back before he’s 100 percent ready and then losing him for who knows how long. Putting it all together, it wasn’t smart. And there has to be something to do with the conditions that we’re going to play in here on the homestand. You put everything together, and this is April and we’ve got five-plus months to play.”
With Anderson out, infielder Danny Mendick was recalled from the alternate site in Schaumburg, Ill. The versatile 27-year-old Mendick hit .243 (26-for-107) with four doubles, one triple, three homers and six RBIs over 33 games last season and was a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award at second base.
Mendick filled in for Anderson, who was 3-for-15 with a homer prior to the injury, at short for Wednesday’s series finale with the Mariners. But it’s been right fielder Adam Eaton and second baseman Nick Madrigal handling the leadoff duties in Anderson’s absence.
“You can’t replicate him,” La Russa said of Anderson. “This is one of the best players in the game.”
With both Anderson and Eloy Jiménez (who is out five to six months with a ruptured pectoral) removed, the South Siders’ lineup looks a lot different than projected.
“Now, more than ever, we need to do the little things,” said center fielder Luis Robert, who hit his first homer of the season Tuesday. “Move the runner, get the sacrifice fly when we need it, play as a team. That’s the way we can keep producing runs.”
Hamilton day to day with left hamstring tightness
White Sox left fielder Billy Hamilton left Wednesday’s 8-4 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park in the fifth inning with left hamstring tightness. He's listed as day to day.
In the top of the inning, Hamilton had drawn a walk, moved to second on an Adam Eaton walk and swiped third as part of a double steal. But Hamilton was clearly in pain after the headfirst slide into third. He stayed in the game and later scored on a bases-loaded walk, but was replaced by Andrew Vaughn in left field in the bottom of the inning.
Added to the Chicago roster in the middle of Spring Training, the speedy Hamilton has started three games and gone 3-for-11 with two walks and two steals.
Home opener awaits
Thursday’s 3:10 p.m. CT opener against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field had La Russa remembering his first home opener as manager of the White Sox way back in 1980 (La Russa had taken over the managerial duties midseason in 1979).
“It was a tough day to breathe and keep the goose pimples down,” La Russa recalled.
The 76-year-old skipper is feeling similar excitement now.
“Opening Days don’t get old,” he said. “They just get better and better. I’m very excited and mostly want to compete as good as we can so we can give the fans what they came to watch, which is we don’t play the bottom of the ninth.”
The return of fans is eagerly awaited by the Sox players. Robert, for instance, has yet to play a home game in front of the fans after putting together an impact rookie season in front of empty seats.
“When you are playing with fans, you feel more adrenaline,” he said. “If you make a good play or hit a homer, you can feel that energy. That’s one of the things I am excited about is to have that experience with the fans in Chicago.”
Thursday’s pregame ceremony will feature nine healthcare workers from Rush University Medical Center taking the field, as well as recognition of groundskeeper Roger “The Sodfather” Bossard’s 55th Opening Day. Country music artist and 2019 “American Idol” winner Laine Hardy will sing the virtual national anthem, and José Abreu will be presented with his 2020 AL MVP Award.
Vaughn gets first hit
Andrew Vaughn raked his way to a roster spot in Spring Training, but the rookie was 0-for-9 in the season proper before ripping a double for his first hit Tuesday night.
“I definitely was in a little bit of a funk,” Vaughn said. “Felt good to go back to my roots there and get a knock and it helped us win a game, so it was cool.”
Vaughn admitted to some early season jitters, though he said his recent adaptation to left field in light of the Jiménez injury has not affected him offensively.
“You’ve got to separate it,” he said. “You’ve got to do your defensive work and be good at that and do your offensive work and be good at that.”