White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday that he will try to change Yermin Mercedes’ mind about quitting baseball.
La Russa told reporters Mercedes may have just been “frustrated” when he wrote on Instagram that he was stepping away from the game “indefinitely.” La Russa boasted that Mercedes has said multiple times that the two men are close.
“He knows I’m a supporter of his. So I’ll reach out to him and see what’s going on,” La Russa said, per MLB.com White Sox reporter Scott Merkin. La Russa also said that he will try to convince Mercedes he still has a future as a major league player.
Mercedes made his announcement less than three months after he became an MLB sensation as a rookie. He wrote in the IG post “it’s over” in English, followed by an emotional message in Spanish. He thanked his family and his agent for their support and then apologized to media and teams for “immaturity” and “failing people.”
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Wednesday afternoon, he posted to his Instagram story a thinking emoji and a phrase in Spanish referring to retirement.
Mercedes has been playing at Triple-A Charlotte since being optioned to the minors July 2. He was sent down amid a lengthy batting slump that many fans and media blamed on La Russa. The 28-year-old DH/catcher slashed .128/.209/.154 in his last 23 games before the demotion.
The blame on La Russa comes from the manager publicly criticizing Mercedes on May 18 for swinging at a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a blowout win over the Twins the previous night. Mercedes homered on the pitch, a 47 mph floater from position player Willians Astudillo.
Mercedes was unapologetic after the game. That didn’t sit well with La Russa, who went public with his thoughts the next afternoon.
“I heard he said something like, ‘I play my game.’ No, he doesn’t,” La Russa said, per Merkin. “He plays the game of Major League Baseball, respects the game, respects the opponents. And he’s got to respect the signs. When he gets the take sign, he takes.”
“I just think that Yermin was locked in,” La Russa also said. “He and Astudillo, they know each other from different competitions. He was locked in and [thinking], ‘I’ve got to get him, I’ve got to get him.'”
La Russa added that the Twins, who were livid with Mercedes, knew that the manager “was upset.”
That night, Minnesota reliever Tyler Duffey hit Mercedes in the leg with a fastball. Umpires ejected Duffey after they conferred on the field. La Russa appeared to take the Twins’ side in his postgame comments to reporters.
“I don’t have a problem with how the Twins handled that,” he said.