La Russa: White Sox season a 'lucky' and 'amazing' experience

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • White Sox manager Tony La Russa, left, high-fives first baseman Jose Abreu before a game against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Guaranteed Rate Field.

    White Sox manager Tony La Russa, left, high-fives first baseman Jose Abreu before a game against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Guaranteed Rate Field. Associated Press

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 10/3/2021 5:36 PM

Four times across three different decades, White Sox manager Tony La Russa has won Manager of the Year laurels. On five other occasions, he has been runner-up for the honor.

So, when it comes to not only that recognition but deflecting questions about the potential for receiving it again this season, he is an old pro. When a reporter asked him about it Sunday, before Chicago's final regular season game, La Russa responded with laughter.

 

"That could be the worst question I've heard since the first day of spring training," he said good-naturedly. La Russa credited the coaching staff and players for the team's success, then oozed humility and gratitude about his experience this season.

"I walked into a situation where any manager would have paid money to have managed this club," said La Russa, who was hired last October after the Sox were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. "Every day I realize I am more lucky than I thought I was the day before. It's just been an amazing experience."

Generally, Manager of the Year goes to those skippers whose teams well exceed expectations. Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch and Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash both figure to be among those getting strong consideration. Meanwhile, the Sox were favorites to win the American League Central.

In La Russa's favor is that Chicago won the division by such a wide margin (13 games) over the second-place Cleveland Indians, despite the club enduring a spate of injuries to key players like outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, as well as catcher Yasmani Grandal.

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The entire squad "rose to the occasion with those injuries. It really tested how deeply do you commit -- and they committed," La Russa said. "It was obvious. That's a really good sign for the future."

Who'll be on ALDS roster?

With the American League division series against Houston starting Thursday, the Sox have until Wednesday to set their 26-man roster for the series.

At this point, it's unclear how many pitchers the team will carry -- it could be anywhere from 11 to 13, La Russa said Sunday. A subplot will be the status of left-handed starter Carlos Rodon, who has pitched effectively but has required about twice as long between starts the past month.

Rodon's last outing was 5 innings of one-hit, shutout ball on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. He has gotten eight or nine days' rest between his last three starts, so duplicating that break would position him to be able to start as early as Game 3 of the ALDS this coming Sunday, when the series comes to Guaranteed Rate Field.

Referring to Rodon's availability as "the great unknown," La Russa acknowledged, "there's no way to answer today without flipping a coin. ... It could be a tough call."

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