Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa is under the microscope once again.
Hendriks had double-switched into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, inhabiting the No.5 spot in the batting order which made the last out in the top of the ninth. Per MLB rules, as extra innings begin, the spot in the order to make the last out in the previous inning becomes the base runner 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 rightly knew Hendriks wasn’t going to come home on a double steal attempt.
“He (Garcia) can run,” La Russa said of Garcia. “We wanted to be aggressive. They threw him out.”
Even in talking out the Sox strategy, the team was concerned with Hendriks’ safety. La Russa was hoping for an easy sacrifice fly ball 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 rules until being read it by a reporter in the postgame zoom.
“I’m guessing you know the rules better,” he said. “Now I know.”