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Ruminations on Jose Abreu's DL stint

Adding regrettable decisions to bad luck risks turning White Sox' rebuilding season into a lost one

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

First, Avisail Garcia screws up his shoulder on an awkward dive and "solves" the playing-time conundrum in left field.

Now, Jose Abreu hits the disabled list for an ankle problem that probably deserved a more careful allocation of off days.

All of a sudden, Paul Konerko has a good two weeks of playing time ahead of him, and maybe more.

And we're supposed to pretend he's not behind this, striking down every player until he's more necessary than nuisance?

(Granted, this doesn't explain Adam Eaton's DL stint -- except once he developed the taste of blood, he could no longer distinguish innocent targets from strategic ones. It's been known to happen.)


People who supported Konerko's presence point to this situation as the ends justifying the means. People against it will say the decision was made before all the injuries, and  it still results in limited opportunities for younger players, even when they're on the roster. Except now, Marcus Semien occupies the "In Case of Emergency" glass case that housed Leury Garcia, and nobody ever wants to break the glass.

Either way, this stretch -- a minimum of 15 days, but possibly longer, depending on test results -- should give Konerko steady work at least one more time. The part-time role hasn't agreed with him, as he's hitting just .192/.241/.308 over 58 plate appearances. Then again, full-time work ground him down last year, so there's not a whole lot of reason to believe he's got a reserve supply of production anywhere.

Hey, maybe Konerko has a good fortnight and gives the media and fans plenty of warm fuzzies. The Sox could hang around .500 even with the downgrade at first base. Problem is, regardless of the outcome, every at-bat Konerko takes that Abreu doesn't puts them closer to the worst-case scenario: a season where nobody learns anything about anybody.

They already lost progress in a corner outfield spot. Garcia could string together brain farts from time to time, and you could chalk it up as part of the rebuilding effort, but Alejandro De Aza's same lowlights are inexcusable. It's cute when kids lose their pants in public, but adults get arrested.

And then there's second base, where Gordon Beckham's "hot bat" has propelled him to the same place he usually is -- a .299 OBP.

And then there's the rotation, where John Danks looks like he's plateaued near replacement level while Erik Johnson struggles to find his velocity in Charlotte (although there is actually value in confirming Danks' future, as discouraging as it might be).

Throw in Eaton's dangerous playing style, and it's quite easy to imagine a season where the only takeaway is Conor Gillaspie is better than we thought. Which would be cool, albeit wasted on the guy least likely to enjoy it.


To Eaton's credit, he does seem to realize why the Sox need him healthy, even if it may take a while to form new habits.

When should Eaton tone it down? He said he might lower the RPMs on routine ground balls.

"There has to be an instance where you may want to pull the reins back a little bit, but in my mind, I'd be doing an injustice if I did that," he said.

"If it's a ground ball to second base, if I don't bust it down the line, I feel like I'm not giving my all. In retrospect, if I give 70 percent when I move down the line, knowing he's going to make the play 100 out of 100 times and the team is not going to look upon me differently … But I've always been that way.

He's probably got a long way to go to figure out the finer points of self-preservation, but considering he was defensive about the subject last month, this is a welcome development.

I haven't seen the same thing from the people above him. When talking about the phantom two days off Abreu never received, Rick Hahn wasn't willing to call the change of plans a mistake:

"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.

In a vacuum, one could shrug it off as a learning experience. But it's coming on the heels of Chris Sale's career-high pitch count leading to a DL stint that's 30 days and counting, and there's no reason to revisit that one, either.

"I'd say it's still more of how he's feeling when he's in there," Ventura said. "Very few times has he gone up to that (127-pitch) area. But some games when you're going up against another pitcher like (Lester), whether you take him out you're going to hear it and if you keep going you're going to hear it."

Hear it from the fans? Or from the media?

"Anybody," Ventura replied. "You'll hear it either way. … Everybody has an opinion one way or the other."

Besides the fact that he's never gone up to that area, I'm not sure why jerks like me you even enter the equation.

Throw in the weeks-long search for the source of Nate Jones' pain, plus the initial understatements of Garcia's shoulder and Gillaspie's bruised hand, and just about every injury has been worse than initially estimated. We're not accustomed to losing streaks from the White Sox Department of Health, but this sure looks like one. Each case could be defensible when weighed individually, but it's harder and harder to write off the body count as bad breaks, especially when some decisions could be walked back.

I understand that actions speak louder than words. After all, how many times did Ozzie Guillen say he had to protect Jake Peavy from himself, only to see him pull the Bulldog Mind Trick? The Sox could take the load off Abreu and Sale without admittting weakness, and hey, whatever gets them through the year.

Nevertheless, words are all we have until the holding pattern resolves itself, which is problematic when Ventura isn't skilled at mass communications. The Peavy situation irritated us because Guillen had a track record of knowing better. This situation is frustrating because we still don't know how much Ventura knows. As a result, everybody's on edge and at odds because there's very little that looks cohesive from here, in a season where things need to start coming together.