Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa is under the microscope again.
La Russa said he didn’t fully know the extra-inning rule that would have allowed him to avoid using closer Liam Hendriks as a baserunner in a 0-0 game against the Reds on Wednesday in Cincinnati.
Hendriks had double-switched into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, taking the No. 5 spot in the batting order, which made the last out in the top of the frame. Per MLB rules, as extra innings begin, the spot in the order to make the last out in the previous inning becomes the baserunner at second base. However, if that spot is occupied by a pitcher, the team has the option to use the preceding player in the batting order as the runner. In this case, it would have been Jose Abreu.
“I didn’t know that,” La Russa said after the 1-0 loss. “We all thought Liam was going to be the runner. I wasn’t aware Abreu could have run. I thought it was the guy that made the last out or the spot in that order.”
Besides the obvious injury risk to a player who has run the bases once in his entire career, the choice to run Hendriks impacted the inning. While he was on third base with one out, Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart didn’t hesitate to throw to second base to nail Leury Garcia, who was trying to steal — despite the potential winning run at third. Barnhart knew Hendriks likely wasn’t going to go home on a double-steal attempt.
“[Garcia] can run,” La Russa said. “We wanted to be aggressive. They threw him out.”
Even in talking out the White Sox strategy, the team was concerned with Hendriks’ safety. La Russa said he was hoping for an easy sacrifice fly or another way for Hendriks to score that wasn’t stressful. It didn’t matter after Billy Hamilton struck out to end the inning.
“We were going to try and avoid any kind of contact at home plate,” La Russa said.
La Russa admitted he wasn’t aware of the rule until hearing it read by a reporter in the postgame Zoom session.
“I’m guessing you know the rules better,” he said. “Now I know.”
The White Sox named La Russa their manager in October, a move questioned by some; the Hall of Famer hadn’t managed since 2011.