Elvis Andrus has taken 164 at-bats in the Oakland Coliseum this season, but none have felt better than his first one on Friday night.
On the second pitch of the game, Andrus turned on a high 93 mph fastball and sent it soaring into the left field seats. It was the 34-year olds first-ever leadoff home run. But more importantly, it set the tone for a 14-run outburst from the White Sox. The White Sox collected a single-game season high in home runs (five) and extra-base hits (eight).
This was also Andrus’s first at-bat from the visitor’s dugout this season. The 14-year veteran played 252 games with the Athletics before getting released in August. The Athletics are in the middle of a full-scale teardown. Andrus’s contract contained a vested player option for 2023 that the Athletics had no interest in paying. His option would kick in after 550 plate appearances, and the team didn’t want him to get anywhere near that mark.
That was okay with Andrus. He was elated to be picked up by a team contending for a playoff spot after spending all season wallowing in the cellar of the American League West.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 9, 2022
Andrus has been a revelation for the White Sox since joining the team on August 19th. Rick Hahn added him to fill in for the injured Tim Anderson at shortstop. He has surpassed expectations to this point.
Before coming to the Southside, he was hitting .237 this season. He is batting .291 in a White Sox uniform with four home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .819 OPS. Entering Thursday, he has gone 16-for-45 with three home runs, three doubles, and six multi-hit games in his last eleven games. He is currently working on a ten-game hit streak.
The offense has been a bonus to this point. His production at the plate has slowly been deteriorating with age. Nobody thought he would be this effective. He has brought two invaluable things to the White Sox: sure-handed defense and a high baseball IQ. These are two things the White Sox have lacked all season.
“A true shortstop playing shortstop, and with the experience, he has,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “He is a very smart player.”
“Plays really good defense, and he’s been getting really good clutch hits,” Cairo added. “He’s been a very important piece. I’m glad we signed him.”
Defense is something he has excelled at since entering the league. In 2009 he ranked fifth in the American League in defensive WAR with a 2.3 mark. He cracked the top five again in 2017 with a 2.1 defensive WAR. While Andrus isn’t the defender he once was, he still has an Ultimate Zone Rating of (2.6) and Outs Above Average of zero as a shortstop in Oakland this season.
Along with the production on the field, Andrus has also provided value off of it. He has gone out nearly every day and worked on double plays with Romy Gonzalez. He made himself feel at home and established himself as a voice in the clubhouse.
“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,” Andrus told the media.
The question is, what do the White Sox do with him once Anderson returns? The answer is simple for Andrus. Whatever the team needs.
While Andrus has never started a major league game at second base, he doesn’t think it will be too much of an issue, shifting over if need be.
“I play a lot 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.”