HOUSTON — White Sox first baseman José Abreu has been battling flu-like symptoms but will travel to Houston on Wednesday night ahead of the American League Division Series against the Astros, the team announced prior to its workout.
The White Sox will make a decision on Abreu’s availability for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. First pitch at Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET.
“Sunday he didn’t play. He just didn’t feel well. He caught a bit of the flu,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa of his team leader. “Got to the workout yesterday, and he had had a tough night with fever, and now we’re all brimming with happiness and excitement because the fever broke.
“He passed the tests, which are mandatory, and he’ll be flying back here tonight. Then we’ll see what his strength level is for tomorrow, but our worst fears were never realized. He’ll be back in uniform.”
Abreu tested positive for COVID-19 at the outset of Spring Training, but as La Russa pointed out through his test comment, this current illness is not COVID-19 related. Abreu has been tested physically all season, including being hit by a pitch 22 times, but he is a player who prides himself on being ready to play every inning, every day, so it will be tough to keep him out of the lineup.
As an example, Abreu ran full force into Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier while chasing a popup in the first game of a doubleheader on May 14 and left the game. But he wanted to play the nightcap.
“We’ve had several conversations in the clubhouse about how stubborn he’s going to be about admitting how he feels for the game tomorrow,” La Russa said. “Put his hand on the baseball bible and see. I think for certain, if he’s not in there tomorrow, he’ll be in there Friday.”
“Overall, I just can’t wait for him to get here and be able to compete with us,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. “He plays a huge role. He’s been here. So I think it’s only right that we get him back.”
The reigning AL MVP hit .261 with 30 home runs and 117 RBIs in 152 games for the AL Central champions this season. He fell just short of leading the AL for a third straight season in RBIs and has been the team’s guiding force over the past two years.
“He’s the stoic one who leads by example and is able to get it done that way,” White Sox closer Liam Hendriks said. “Him not being on the flight yesterday wasn’t ideal.
“Luckily it’s good news what we are hearing and get here in enough time to get ready for tomorrow. He’s a big part in that clubhouse but one of the major pieces of that lineup that’s able to stabilize everything and make sure he’s going to drive in the runs.”
There’s a chance Abreu could start at designated hitter on Thursday against Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. Left-handed hitter Gavin Sheets would be a candidate to start at first base in that situation.
“Whatever they need. I think that’s everybody’s mentality right now. Whatever we have to do to win this series, whatever role we have to play, we’ll be ready,” Sheets said. “He’s our captain. He’s our leader.
“He shows us the way to do things. He shows us the right way to do things and he’s the reigning MVP. He calls himself our second dad. That’s the role he’s played all year. It’s showing guys the right way to do things on and off the field.”