The Chicago White Sox found an effective lead-off man in Alejandro De Aza this season. As the pennant race heats up, they may be losing that production at the top of the lineup for a while.
De Aza is likely headed for the disabled list after back stiffness kept him on the bench for the third straight game. That is terrible news to a team that used the center fielder to plug the top spot in the batting order.
De Aza has missed time with back issues recently but was in the lineup August 17 in Kansas City. He came up in noticeable pain after being caught stealing second in the top of the third inning. Though he remained in the game immediately following, Dewayne Wise pinch-hit for De Aza in the eighth and has been in center ever since.
I would expect Jordan Danks to return to the White Sox if De Aza is placed on the DL. Wise has proven to be a solid addition so far, hitting .290 with three homers since joining Chicago. He has driven in nine runs and filled in well in the leadoff spot.
The White Sox have to hope that continues because there isn't a real tasty option in that role on the roster.
Chicago has been able to weather various injuries to some key players, most notably Paul Konerko's seven-day DL stint due to a concussion. The trouble is, the White Sox had plenty of bats suited to the middle of the lineup and had Adam Dunn capably fill the void at first while the captain was out.
I believe that Wise and Danks could do the job defensively in the outfield. However, De Aza was providing vital production as the lead-off man. The White Sox turned to him this spring because they really didn't have any other candidates for the position.
Now that he may miss a couple of weeks late in the season, Chicago will have to stay afloat with a journeyman and a rookie holding down the fort. Wise seems to be the man of the moment. He's exactly the type of guy who needs to come through in a pinch when a team is contending for a division title.
If De Aza hits the DL, the White Sox may find out if they are that type of team.