How a recent leadership meeting might have sparked the Chicago White Sox – The Denver Post



The Chicago White Sox had a rough recent trip, dropping five of eight against the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.

They returned home Friday for a series against the Detroit Tigers, and closer Liam Hendriks said manager Tony La Russa that weekend called a meeting with players in the leadership group.

“Just making sure we’re all on the right page, making sure we’re all united and making sure that if there was anything we needed to air, it was a safe space,” Hendriks said before Wednesday’s game against the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field. He first revealed the meeting on WMVP-AM 1000.

“But the message of the entire thing was positivity. Make sure you’re a united front on positivity and make sure we breed that because these eight to 10 guys (in the meeting), let it seep into every single person. So if I’m positive, two people next to me will become. It seeps in. It seems to have worked out all right over the last little bit. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

The Sox entered Wednesday a season-high five games over .500 and one game behind the first-place Cleveland Guardians in the American League Central. They won the first five games of the homestand, three against the Tigers and two against the Astros.

La Russa said the meeting produced a “couple of tweaks to how we prepare that were helpful.”

“But there wasn’t anything that we haven’t stressed and the team hasn’t represented,” La Russa said. “Agree or disagree, it’s really not important. But we didn’t get to the point where we stayed alive without having something special in that clubhouse. We had ups and downs, we had tough losses, and we’d come out the next day and play. So that part, which is important, the head, heart and guts of this club, has always been there. And now it’s a reason for us to get excited.”

Hendriks said José Abreu’s comments were among those that stood out.

“One thing that was stated by Abreu was how our confidence turned into cockiness,” Hendriks said. “That’s one thing that several have said is the complacency level is we just expected to come in and roll over like we did last year. That hasn’t been the case. That was not necessarily due to other teams blowing us out of the water or anything like that. It’s been to our own detriment of us thinking we can go out there and roll over teams and be expected to win.

“But I don’t think we are too far on recalling and remembering the times we did beat our own division rivals rather than how hard some of those games were to win and what we had to do in those games to actually win. Now looking back on it I think a lot of guys are realizing it’s not just an easy thing to be able to go and win the division two years in a row. That’s something hopefully we can get back.”

La Russa agreed with Abreu’s assessment.

“It’s human nature, it’s what we all do, right?” La Russa said. “How does that turn? Have success, and success comes from never giving in, never giving up, keep trying to improve how you compare and compete. But a lot of it traces back to the club felt challenged that last period before (the All-Star break), 18 games in 17 days, what were we, 11-7? We had a good record.

“We were really tested. That’s why I say (the meeting is) the latest example of communication, which has been going on since spring training one way or another.”

Asked if Johnny Cueto’s statement last week of the team needing to ”show the fire that we have — if we have any,” factored into calling the meeting, La Russa said “Actually, no. I had talked to a couple of the guys several days before. The first chance we had we were going to do it.”

Before the game, the Sox placed infielder/outfielder Leury García on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain and recalled infielder Romy Gonzalez from Triple-A Charlotte.

“He had enough issues there where he (had to go on the injured list),” La Russa said of García. “But we’re very optimistic in 10 days he’ll be good to go.”

Gonzalez started at shortstop and batted ninth Wednesday. He is slashing .198/.282/.339 with five doubles, four home runs, 10 RBIs, 15 runs and five stolen bases in 33 games with Charlotte this season. He had three stints on the IL with the Knights.

Gonzalez said after getting sick on and off, he had his tonsils removed in late June.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but it’s great to be back, for sure,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez went 8-for-32 with three doubles, two RBIs and four runs in 10 games with the Sox last season.

Sox center fielder Luis Robert remained out with a sprained left wrist suffered Friday against the Tigers. La Russa said Robert received an injection Tuesday.

“The X-rays and everything, looks like it’s good for him to keep proceeding,” La Russa said. “It’s a question of when he can swing normally and not hold back.”

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