La Russa flips slow starters Abreu, Moncada in Sox lineup originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The middle of the White Sox order is off to a slow start.
So manager Tony La Russa flipped his two biggest boppers, José Abreu and Yoán Moncada, in his lineup for the team's series-opening game against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon.
Abreu, the White Sox traditional No. 3 hitter, and Moncada, who's hit fourth this season, traded spots, with Moncada moved into the three hole and Abreu batting cleanup.
"It's just different scenery," La Russa said before the game. "José does a real good job, historically, with men on base. He concentrates well. And you put Yoán, who can get on, ahead of him, that’s an asset. Moncada switching, he's a good mix behind Adam (Eaton, batting second).
"But more than anything, just talking with (White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino) the last couple of days, and we talked about that they had (batted Abreu fourth) before sometimes. I like it because he’s very comfortable, very confident with men on base. Hopefully this gets him extra chances.
"It’s a switch that will be good for both of them."
Abreu has been a slower starter throughout his major league career, his .261 batting average in April the lowest of any month. But this April has been particularly tough for the reigning American League MVP. He's hitting just .184 through the White Sox first 13 games of the season.
"I think it's part of the season, part of baseball," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo last week. "Throughout my eight years in the majors, I haven't gotten off to a really hot start. I think it's just who I am as a baseball player. I usually don't start the season super hot.
"I'm going to keep getting better. You know me, I'm going to keep working hard. I'm not concerned about my offense right now."
Moncada also owned a batting average south of the Mendoza Line coming into Saturday's game, at .191 in the dozen games he's played.
The two middle-of-the-order bats rank first and second on the team in strikeouts: Abreu has 21 in 60 plate appearances, while Moncada has 17 in 54 trips to the plate.
"Pito, he's been aggressive out of the strike zone," La Russa said. "When he gets a ball in the strike zone, he’s a good hitter. Moncada, I think his numbers belie the quality of his at-bats.
"We’ve done a lot of talking about this all week long, including yesterday. I’ve talked to a couple hitting coaches who’ve gone through this before. You have to be careful evaluating your guys. For a pitcher, you get warmed up and it’s closer to warmth. Hitters, some of these at-bats are survival. Really be careful in the early going till sometime in May till you start doing anything too drastic. (Swapping them in the lineup) is not drastic."
Despite the slow starts from their two middle-of-the-order hitters, the absence of Eloy Jiménez and a hit-or-miss offense that has failed to cash in on numerous opportunities in the early going, the White Sox bats have not been ghastly by any stretch. In fact, only seven teams in the majors had scored more runs than the White Sox coming into Saturday.
But if the White Sox are going to replicate their offensive success from 2020, when they boasted the most powerful lineup in the AL, and meet their championship-level expectations, Abreu and Moncada will need to play big roles.