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Flinch hitter: Jose Abreu has painful day in White Sox’ 6-5 loss

Updated: June 23, 2014 1:11PM

HOUSTON — Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen?

Maybe. If it wasn’t 15, it was painfully close.

And you can go ahead and put the emphasis on “painfully.”

That’s how long White Sox slugger Jose Abreu sat at his locker in the visitors’ clubhouse Saturday — head buried in his hands — after a game in which he was lifted for Paul Konerko because of the left ankle pain that just won’t quit.

In the Sox’ 6-5 loss, it was a fifth-inning swing by Abreu that took manager Robin Ventura aback. Abreu finished the at-bat with a fly out to left, ending his day at 0-for-3 and, likely, his series at 0-for-7.

“We’ll re-evaluate him,” Ventura said, “but I don’t see him in there [Sunday], for sure.”

Abreu and Alexei Ramirez are the only Sox players who’ve appeared in every game this season. That’s about to change.

What hasn’t changed is the on-again, off-again ankle discomfort Abreu has dealt with since spring training. According to Abreu, he never had an issue with the ankle before arriving in the United States. The team hasn’t specified the whens and hows of his ankle incidents, but it seems there have been at least a couple of them in 2014.

Abreu didn’t look comfortable at the plate or when running to first in the two games against the Astros.

“It just looked awkward,” Ventura said. “I talked to him; it [was] sore. I said, ‘Don’t take a step forward, take a step back.’ . . . It just looked like it might be something that would injure something else, so I just took him out as a precaution.”

Abreu wouldn’t acknowledge that he was worried, frustrated, ticked off or anything else that would explain his head-in-hands reaction. Through an interpreter, he was calm and collected, sharing the sort of insights that, were he anyone other than an early MVP candidate, might not be cause for alarm.

“The most important thing is that I get to be healthy,’’ Abreu said.

“If I have to sit a day, so be it.

“With God’s favor, we’ll do whatever is best.”

But one has to wonder where the inconvenience might end and the disabled list might begin. ­Emphasis on “might.” Hopefully, this isn’t going to grow into a problem that derails not only Abreu’s amazing debut season but, in a larger sense, this team as it progresses in a much better direction than where it was headed this time a year ago.

The Sox did just enough bad stuff to avoid winning the middle game of a three-game series against the worst team in the American League. Short version: There were more mistakes and missed opportunities on the losing side.

The long version includes a starting pitcher, Hector Noesi, who wasn’t ready to go. It includes a base-running gaffe by Alejandro De Aza that snuffed out a potentially big second inning, when the Sox fought back to a 4-2 deficit but might’ve had a few more runs. Much later, there was the errant pickoff throw by reliever Scott Downs that led to the Astros’ sixth run.

All of that is water under the bridge, though, compared with the problem that is Abreu’s ankle. Taking a step back surely was wise. And yet the sooner his next step forward comes, the better.


Twitter: @SLGreenberg

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