CLEVELAND — Going around the league with the surrendering Oakland Athletics was kind of a drag, so coming to the White Sox, a disappointing team but one with a shot at the postseason, lightened Elvis Andrus’ outlook on the final six weeks of the season.
“We were rebuilding, it’s always a tough one, especially for me,” said Andrus, who played his first game with the Sox against the Guardians Friday after signing a deal for the rest of the season. “I want to be in this environment. I want to be competing for the playoffs. Every day counts, meaningful games. I am really happy and pumped up to be here.”
Released by the Athletics Wednesday, the Sox pounced on Andrus and got him for a prorated minimum salary for the rest of the season. With All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson likely out until the last week of the season after having surgery on his middle finger Aug. 11, the Sox were forced to play rookies Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa at shortstop when Leury Garcia went on the injured list this week.
Sosa was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for a player with two All-Star appearances, two World Series appearances and a career .270/.326/.369 hitting line.
“He’s got a lot of game left,” manager Tony La Russa said of Andrus, who turns 34 next Friday. “He plays the whole game, still fields well, can run the bases, has a knack for getting hits against good pitchers. Played in a couple World Series [one against La Russa’s Cardinals in 2011]. We’re thrilled to get him here.”
Andrus also has slightly better numbers in the second half over his 14-year career and has hit well against the Guardians (.342/.409/.518 with a .927 OPS) and Twins (.281/.323/.392 with a .715 OPS), the teams the Sox need to overtake to win the soft AL Central.
“Yeah, I love it,” said Andrus, who popped out in his first at-bat as a Sox but said the ball has always looked huge to him at Progressive Field for some reason. “That was one of the things I saw when I signed with the team, ‘Ah, we’re going to play in Cleveland.’ I was like, ‘OK, that’s not bad, that’s not a bad place to start for me.’ Same thing with Minnesota. I always play really good against them.”
Andrus, with some of his Athletics gear at his locker in the visitors clubhouse, was at ease chatting away with Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu and others before the game. He batted seventh against the Guardians and right-hander Triston McKenzie.
“People talk about the player, the winner, the character that he has,” La Russa said. “So he’s going to fit right into our culture. We’re lucky to get him. Big debt of gratitude to the front office.”
Andrus played with second baseman Josh Harrison in Oakland last season, so there is familiarity in the middle of the infield. And he played behind the Sox’ Friday starter, Lance Lynn, in Texas.
“That’s the guy you want on the mound every four or five days,” Andrus said. “Unbelievable and kind of funny, my first game he’s going to be pitching. It’s going to make me feel a lot more comfortable for sure.”
Perhaps Andrus can help keep whatever spark the Sox (20-13 in their last 33 games) have had going. At the very least, he adds sound defense and a proven bat and locks down a premium position in a pennant race.
“The one thing that you appreciate, when you play many years, is having the opportunity to play meaningful games in September,” Andrus said. “That’s what I love the most about this game. It takes away the whole business and money side and you concentrate and do whatever you can that day to win. It’s all about winning. Do whatever you can that day to win.”