OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s hard to measure just how much Elvis Andrus has meant to the White Sox since he joined them on Aug. 19.
The 34-year-old veteran has stabilized the shortstop position with All-Star Tim Anderson on the injured list. He was batting .284/.321/.459 while starting all 18 games at shortstop since he arrived.
And he’s added another layer of leadership to a roster filled with veterans.
“A true shortstop playing shortstop, and with the experience he has,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said of the two-time All-Star. “He’s a very smart player.”
Andrus is filling Anderson’s customary spot leading off as well, a move Cairo made seven games ago. In that role, he’s batting .326, and in the last 11 games, Andrus is batting 16-for-45 (.356) with three homers, three doubles, six multihit games and a nine-game hitting streak.
“Plays really good defense and he’s been getting really good clutch hits,” Cairo said. “He’s been a very important piece. I’m glad that we signed him.”
Andrus was thrilled to join the contending Sox after Oakland, which came into the Sox’ four-game series that starts Thursday with a 50-87 record, released him in the final year of his eight-year, $120 million contract. The move was made to make room for 23-year-old Nick Allen. The Sox are paying only a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum for Andrus’ services.
The Sox (69-68) were two games off the American League Central lead. There are 25 games left in the regular season, and Anderson, their two-time All-Star and former batting champion out since Aug. 6 with a surgically repaired sagittal band tear on the middle finger of his left hand, is supposed to be ready in approximately two weeks, maybe sooner. Anderson hasn’t talked to media but has been seen on the field doing pregame work, but not with a bat or glove in hand. In the clubhouse, his customary vocal manner has changed to quiet. So it sometimes goes when players wait through dreary IL time unable to contribute.
Andrus, meanwhile, made himself at home in the clubhouse and his voice was easily heard the day he joined the team in Cleveland. He can see what he brings.
“Yeah, yeah, for sure,” Andrus said. “I just have to keep playing hard, keep staying positive. It’s good to play good. I think this team needed it, and it feels like the right timing for me.”
When Anderson gets back, the position will be his, so what will become of Andrus, who has played only shortstop in his 1,874 games over 14 seasons? The idea of moving over to second base and sharing time with Josh Harrison has been broached.
“I play a lot [on the first-base side of second base] with all the shifting,” Andrus said. “I’ve been playing a lot of second. I’ve made like five double plays from second base. So yeah, I’ll be down for whatever he thinks I can do to help the team to win, I’m down to go out there and do my job.”
Cairo, a former infielder, was asked about the possibility Tuesday but there was no need to look that far ahead. After all, Tony La Russa could be back managing when Anderson gets back.
“Today is what, Tuesday? I worry about Tuesday,” Cairo said. “Tomorrow, I don’t worry about tomorrow, two weeks, three weeks. Right now he’s doing a really good job. He’s been very consistent. He’s getting good at-bats and playing good.”
The Sox are coming off winning an important series in Seattle, where Andrus hit a two-run homer in a 3-2 win Monday and had a bunt single and big play from the hole at shortstop in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 9-6 win.
“Especially the way the game started [seven straight strikeouts by Mariners righty Luis Castillo], what they had on the mound, it shows the heart and resiliency of this team,” Andrus said. “It was a huge win for this team. Now, carry it to the next series.”