Ejections force Abreu to play third base in ninth inning originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Now playing third base for the Chicago White Sox, No. 79, José Abreu.
I'm sorry, what now?
That's right, the reigning American League MVP got his first major league action at a position besides first base or DH on Thursday, forced into duty at the hot corner as the culmination of a bizarre series of events in the top of the ninth inning in the White Sox' 9-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
With two outs, White Sox relief pitcher Mike Wright Jr. hit this year's MVP frontrunner, Shohei Ohtani, in the leg with a pitch. The umpires conferred as Ohtani made his way to first base and ejected Wright from the game for the plunking. White Sox manager Tony La Russa went out for a chat, and he, too, was given the old heave-ho.
Turns out, according to the South Side skipper, the umpires decided that Wright's plunking of the Angels' top player was retaliation for something that happened two days earlier, when both Abreu and Luis Robert were hit by pitches in the opening game of the series.
"It was not intentional," La Russa said after the game. "The reasoning did not make sense. (Second-base umpire and crew chief Bill Welke) felt that there was stuff flying in that first game. It was all us getting hit. And he noticed all that, but they didn't do anything.
"We pitched Ohtani tough all series. He got a couple soft hits against us. But (Welke) ruled that that was intentional, and he made a mistake. It wasn't consistent with his umpiring judgment throughout the series. I'm not going to belabor this: It wasn't intentional, he read it wrong.
"It's upsetting. It looks bad for our pitcher, our team, me. It disappoints me."
With just one out to get in the final inning of a six-run game, the La Russa-less White Sox turned to a position player, Romy González, to pitch. That created a vacancy at third base, and with regular third baseman Yoán Moncada getting a day off and man of many positions Leury García replaced in right field earlier in the game, there were no infielders remaining on the White Sox' bench.
Enter Abreu, DH'ing on Thursday, who grabbed a glove and manned the hot corner for all of one batter, who González struck out on four pitches.
So there wasn't any excitement for Abreu over there, no chance for him to show off that all the work he puts in before games taking grounders on the left side of the infield has paid off. For the uninitiated, he does that every day to improve his agility, and it's obviously helped as he's evolved into a strong defender at first.
But now, Abreu's done something the odds weren't in favor of: He's played multiple defensive positions in the major leagues.
Of course, that the reigning MVP even would volunteer for such an assignment in the final moments of a lopsided game said something about the White Sox' oft-celebrated team leader.
"Is there any doubt that he would do whatever (was needed of him)?" La Russa said. "If they were all like him, all our jobs would be easier — what you do, what I do, the fans. He's very special."