CHICAGO — Elvis Andrus has made an impact for the Chicago White Sox with All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson on the injured list. What happens when Anderson is able to return to the lineup?
As the Chicago White Sox prepared to open a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field against the Colorado Rockies, there was promising news on the potential return of Anderson in the coming days from a hand injury suffered in early August.
Acting manager Miguel Cairo told reporters before the Sept. 13 game that Anderson can start working on infield activities and take “dry swings,” meaning no contact with a baseball during the swing.
“I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but that’s really good news for us,” Cairo said. “When you’re dealing with hands, it’s delicate.”
While Anderson has been out, Andrus has been a godsend for the White Sox as they battle to get back on top in the American League Central race. Since being picked up off waivers from the Oakland A’s in mid-August, Andrus has slashed .293/.337/.511 with five homers and 20 RBI in 22 games. He has filled in well at shortstop, but Cairo insists that Anderson will be slotted back in at shortstop when healthy.
So how can Elvis Andrus and Tim Anderson co-exist with the Chicago White Sox?
Cairo said on Tuesday that he has not talked to Andrus about playing a position other than shortstop, the only defensive position he has played during his 14-year MLB career. The same can be said for Anderson in his seven-year career, so there is clearly a logjam in Chicago at shortstop. But it’s a logjam that Cairo said he doesn’t need to worry about until Anderson is fully cleared and healthy enough to return.
“Right now, he’s playing shortstop,” Cairo said of Andrus. “We can not go too far ahead. Today.”
Cairo praised Andrus and his “veteran experience” for being a part of Chicago’s 8-3 run in September that has the White Sox just three games back in the AL Central heading into Tuesday night.
“He’s been helping big time,” Cairo said. “Gonzo (Romy Gonzalez, who has just 100 career plate appearances) has been doing a really good job at second base, and it’s good to have someone with that experience playing beside you.”
Chicago relief pitcher Liam Hendriks echoed Cairo’s thoughts on the impact Andrus has made in his short time in the White Sox lineup.
“I’ve played against him for a long time when I was in Oakland and he was in Texas, and it’s the same thing he had over there. He brings veteran leadership and when he talks, people listen,” Hendriks said. “It’s one of those things where he’s either moved around a little bit or just takes that one pitch or has that gripe about one thing and that rallies everybody else.”
Hendriks is wanting to see what the White Sox can be with both Andrus and Anderson in the lineup.
“Elvis has been exactly what this team has needed,” he said. “It’d be fantastic because they bring an energy level and bring a kind of excitement level that you don’t see very often around the league.”
When Anderson returns (which could happen in time for Chicago’s next homestand, slated to begin on September 20 against Cleveland), look for the White Sox to figure out a potential platoon system at shortstop and/or use Andrus or Anderson as the team’s designated hitter. So far this season, Chicago designated hitters have combined for minus-0.5 bWAR (13th in MLB) while the shortstop position has accounted for 0.8 bWAR.
If putting a pair of premium shortstops who can also hit in the lineup can boost Chicago’s chances of getting to the postseason (with odds currently sitting at 23 percent according to FanGraphs), look for some lineup changes to happen on the South Side as the September stretch run heats up.