While the retiring Paul Konerko set to return from an injury this weekend, the Chicago White Sox’s current star first baseman, Jose Abreu, will continue his push toward AL Rookie of the Year honors.
After recovering from a broken left hand, Konerko is back in the starting lineup as the White Sox open a three-game series at the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
In part because of the emergence of Abreu, the 38-year-old Konerko has appeared in 74 games in his 18th season, and hasn’t played since Sept. 2 because of the injury. He took batting practice in Kansas City earlier this week but manager Robin Ventura kept him out to give him more rest.
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"I think during the weekend we’ll be able to give him hopefully a couple of at-bats," Ventura told MLB’s official website. "If he’s up for it, he can probably DH one of those games."
Konerko, whom Ventura is batting sixth, is the franchise’s leader with 4,008 total bases, and ranks second in games played, home runs and RBIs. The six-time All-Star was the AL championship series MVP in 2005 during the team’s run to its only World Series title in the last 97 seasons.
Abreu is well on his way to establishing his own storied legacy with the team, and his 35 home runs are tied for a White Sox rookie record.
Abreu, who has only two homers in his last 23 games, went 7 for 17 with three home runs and 11 RBIs as the White Sox took three of four from the Rays on April 25-28. Chicago was swept in three games in its latest visit to Tampa Bay in July 2013.
The favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award with a .319 average, 103 RBIs and a .975 OPS, Abreu will get his first look at Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 3.63 ERA), who will try to avoid going winless at home this season. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA in six starts at Tropicana Field and is 0-2 with a 4.21 ERA in his last seven overall with Tampa Bay (74-79) losing in each.
He matched a season high with eight strikeouts in six innings Saturday in Toronto and did not get a decision in a 6-3 loss.
Hellickson earned his last win in Tampa Bay while pitching in relief against Baltimore on Sept. 20. His most recent victory in a home start was against the White Sox on July 5, 2013 – a span of 12 starts.
"Against the White Sox last year? That’s a long time ago," Hellickson told MLB’s official website. "Yeah, I mean it would be nice to get a win at home before the season is over."
Hellickson is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in three career matchups with Chicago (69-83).
The Rays had a three-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday, their second defeat in the last six home contests.
The White Sox have dropped 10 of 12 on the road and three of four overall after matching a season high with four consecutive wins.
Jose Quintana (8-10, 3.30) earned one of those victories Saturday against Minnesota, allowing one run and three hits in seven-plus innings and striking out a career-high 13 in a 5-1 final. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 23 strikeouts and four walks over 20 innings in his last three starts.
Quintana is 0-1 with a 5.87 ERA in two lifetime starts against Tampa Bay, both in 2012.