ANAHEIM, Calif. — Josh Harrison’s offense was so inept for the first two months of the season, his first with the White Sox, that people who follow the team wanted to see him shipped out.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t care what anybody says,” Harrison, a 10-year veteran infielder who turns 35 next month, said.
It’s probably a good thing Harrison, an All-Star for the Pirates in 2014 and 2017 who signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal to fill a void left at second base created by the trade of Nick Madrigal and declining to pick up Carlos Hernandez’ option after the season, tuned out the noise.
In June, Harrison was batting .346/.403/.509 with a .912 OPS going into Wednesday’s game against the Angels and Shohei Ohtani. He clubbed a two-run, tying homer in the Sox’ 11-4 victory over the Angels Tuesday.
“Been feeling pretty good at the plate, getting my rhythm and timing,” Harrison said. “Putting good swings on good pitches.”
Harrison is making the signing not look as awful as it first appeared when his batting line stood at .167/.248/.255 on June 2, his demeanor and veteran clubhouse presence notwithstanding.
“You don’t get to 10 years in this league by accident,” Harrison said. “I’ve been through every emotion possible. Anger, sad, upset, frustrated, excited. And I’ve dealt with adversity at the beginning of the season but it’s not anything I hadn’t gone through before. I know that’s what happens, you play the game and it can turn.”
It took a good turn when Harrison walked off the Blue Jays in a 7-6 victory in 12 innings Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, a day after hitting a home run in an 8-7 win. He made big defensive plays in both games.
Harrison’s early season disappointment runs parallel to a team that was three games below .500 entering Wednesday’s rubber game of a series. The Sox are digging in and resisting the forces that threaten to keep them looking up at two teams in the weak AL Central.
“That’s just a testament of what we got going here, guys showing up every day and you go about your work,” he said. “You go to the right direction.”
Even as Harrison was playing better, when prospect Lenyn Sosa was called up from Double-A Birmingham Thursday after Danny Mendick tore his ACL in a collision with left fielder Adam Haseley, some fans were incensed that Harrison and not Sosa started at second base that day. Sosa had big numbers at Birmingham, and many thought he could provide a needed spark to a lagging offense.
Sosa did play in four games, starting three, and went 1-for-12 before being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte when Yoan Moncada came off the IL Tuesday.
“Teams kind of had an idea of how to pitch him, with the idea of this is how we need to execute against him,” assistant hitting coach Howie Clark said. “He had one hit but he hit a couple balls hard and for me he was very calm, he has great work ethic, he listens. I don’t think there is a lot that has to change.”
The Sox like Sosa’s makeup but feel the experience will serve him well as he gets the everyday at-bats he needs at Charlotte. Harrison, meanwhile, was an easy choice as far as manager Tony La Russa is concerned.
“Just watch every game that he plays,” La Russa said. “He could sit two or three days and he comes up there with vigor. He’s got a career of making plays and taking tough at-bats. He got off to a slow start and now he’s starting to be himself. But he’s never lost his positive frame of mind in the clubhouse. And if he’s not playing he’s there, ready.”
La Russa calls Harrison “a special pro.”
“He can’t be any better than he is professionally — personally as well,” he said.