CHICAGO (AP) — White Sox star José Abreu would have loved nothing more than to be gearing up for another game and a chance to keep Chicago’s playoff hopes alive.
He wasn’t about to let a bitter ending sour an otherwise sweet season.
“It just happened. I cannot take any value out of what Houston did because they are a good team,” he said through an interpreter Wednesday, a day after the White Sox got knocked out in convincing fashion by the Astros in an AL Division Series. “At the same time, I think that we did a pretty good job, too. We did our best. They just at the end were better.”
Loaded with stars like Abreu and Tim Anderson — and with Hall of Famer Tony La Russa back for a second tenure guiding the franchise that gave him his first major league managing job — the White Sox had visions of a deep October run.
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Another early exit sure wasn’t the plan. But after running away with the AL Central, they dropped the division series against the Astros in four games. And it wasn’t close.
Now, the attention turns toward next season and a future that still looks bright for a team with no shortage of young stars.
With one of the top lineups and pitching staffs in baseball, the White Sox rolled to a 93-69 record and beat Cleveland by 13 games in the division. The win total was their highest since the 2005 World Series championship team went 99-63.
Never before had they made the playoffs in back-to-back years. But after getting knocked out by Oakland in the wild-card round in 2020, they did just that even though Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez missed significant time with injuries. On the other hand, Chicago won just one playoff game for the second year in a row.
Now, as the White Sox look ahead, here are some things to know:
LA RUSSA’S STATUS
One big question is whether La Russa will be back.
The three-time World Series champion said Tuesday it’s up to management first and then the players. If they want him back, then “you check and see whether you got the desire to continue to manage, so I do.”
La Russa was lured to Chicago for a second stint by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after a decade away from managing to replace Rick Renteria. There were some rough patches, but players also publicly praised him. Abreu said he expects La Russa to return.
“I didn’t have any conversations with him about it, but I’m pretty sure that he is going to come back,” he said. “He won’t leave us alone. He’s gonna be with us.”
The White Sox have a $16 million option on reliever Craig Kimbrel’s contract. It’s not hard to envision them picking it up and trying to trade the eight-time All-Star.
Kimbrel struggled in a big way following a July 30 trade to the South Side, after dominating with Cubs. The White Sox used him in more of a setup role rather than have him share the closer spot with Liam Hendriks, and he never seemed comfortable.
Kimbrel had a 0.49 ERA, 23 saves in 39 appearances prior to the trade, compared to a 5.09 ERA and one save in 24 games with the White Sox. He went from allowing 13 hits, striking out 64 and walking 13 in 36 2/3 innings for the North Siders to giving up 18 hits, striking out 36 and walking 10 in 23 innings for the South Siders.
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Having completed his best season, Carlos Rodón now faces an uncertain future. That’s because the left-hander has an expiring contract and a history of arm and shoulder injuries.
The White Sox nontendered Rodón, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, after the 2020 season, only to bring him back on a $3 million, one-year deal.
He rewarded them in a big way, setting a career high in wins while going 13-5 with a personal-best 2.37 ERA. Rodón made his first All-Star team, but threw just 28 innings over the final two months of the regular season.
‘PEN TO ROTATION?
If Rodón leaves, that could open a spot in the rotation for Michael Kopech.
The hard-throwing right-hander was a valuable part of the bullpen, going 4-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 44 games while pitching for the first time since 2018. The 25-year-old Kopech, who missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and opted out in 2020, was a starter in the minors.
Abreu might be in line for an extension, with one season left on a $50 million, three-year contract. The 34-year-old Cuban slugger hit .261 with 30 homers and 117 RBIs after winning the AL MVP in 2020.
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