CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu moved closer to returning from the disabled list Saturday morning when he faced a pair of Minor League relievers brought up from extended spring training in a simulated game at U.S. Cellular Field.
Abreu, who has been on the DL since May 18 with left ankle inflammation, is targeting Monday against the Dodgers for his return, the first day he's eligible for activation.
Abreu understandably looked rusty facing his first live pitching since going on the DL. It took him at least three or four at-bats to put a ball in play, though he was plunked just above the left elbow by Brad Salgado, who is converting from infielder to reliever .
When Abreu did put the ball in play, he made solid contact. Of the six balls he put in play over the nine or 10 at-bats, he lined a single to left, snuck a ground-ball single down the left-field line, lined a ball to straightaway center and hit a ground-rule double off the warning track in left-center. He ran out the majority of the balls he put in play, including going to second base when applicable.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the club decided to have Abreu participate in simulated games Saturday and Sunday in place of a rehab assignment so head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and his staff could keep a close eye on their rookie sensation.
"I think Herm was pretty adamant about keeping him here and being able to watch him," Ventura said. "And we have a better idea of his mannerisms and his reactions to certain things."
The most important thing is that Abreu becomes reacclimated to facing live pitching.
"Yea I think just how he reacts, but you're getting him, you're giving him the ability to see a guy live instead of just throwing batting practice," Ventura said. "It's hard to simulate Major League pitching, but this is about as close as you can get as far as a guy coming out there live, and it's not just coming in straight.
"So he'll have to take pitches and I think that's going to be the biggest thing is just reaction-wise and him seeing pitches and not having to send him out on a rehab assignment."
The White Sox have stayed afloat while their most productive hitter has been unavailable. Despite averaging just 3.33 runs per game in the 12 games Abreu has missed, the Sox have gone 7-5 in that span.
"Well I think once you drop him in the middle of the lineup it moves people around," Ventura said. "It gives you a deeper, longer lineup than you would have without him in there, and we've seen the impact of having him in the lineup compared to having him out. We realize we're a lot better with him in it."
Konerko back in lineup
CHICAGO -- Sox captain Paul Konerko is back in Saturday's lineup after missing the past three games with back tightness. He's hitting seventh as the designated hitter, which he's done for the majority of games Jose Abreu has missed while Adam Dunn mans first base.
"He's all clear. I think you go through periods where it's bound up, it's happening the last couple years where it gets a little bound up where it doesn't feel good," Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Konerko. "Having given him a few days to deal with it and clean it up, so he's good to go today."
Konerko was able to avoid the DL, a positive for him but something that will force a tough decision in the near future for the Sox. Should Abreu return as planned on Monday, Chicago will have to make a corresponding roster move.
One possibility is that Marcus Semien, who served as DH in place of Konerko Wednesday and Friday. The 23-year-old infielder is hitting just .222 and may benefit from more consistent at-bats at the Minor League level.
Ventura breaks down Interleague Play
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura actually prefers the National League version of baseball over the AL version he manages in most of the time.
"I think there's a uniqueness that the National League has in having pitchers hit. It's good for your team," Ventura said. "I actually like the National League game as far as a team concept of it because everybody needs to be ready, you never know with the double switches when guys are going to go in and play.
"I don't think the bench gets as stagnant as they do in the American League because guys are always in the game. You seem to use your bench more in the National League than you do in the American League."
Ventura acknowledged that AL teams tend to be at a disadvantage in National League parks because their pitchers don't hit all year. It's become even more of a challenge since MLB switched to the new schedule format last season, in which Interleague series are spread throughout the year.
The Sox, for example, visited Colorado from April 7-9, Wrigley Field May 5-6 and will take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles Monday through Wednesday. They then won't play in a National League Park until August 12-13 when they visit the San Francisco Giants.
"Yeah, we have to have the pitchers hit and it is different. Our guys rarely swing the bat so when you're setting up how you're going to go about it, guys have to prepare," Ventura said. "We've got pitchers that are hitting today, just be ready for Monday against the Dodgers, having that come up. Usually, Interleague in the past has been kind of in one period of time where you could gear up for it and everybody does it.
"Now, it's spread out so much that your pitchers hit, then they don't hit and they have to work on it again. It is a bit of a disadvantage for American League teams, but it's just part of the deal."
Third to first
• Entering play Saturday, the Sox are 22-9 when hitting at least one home run and are 13-3 when recording a multi-homer game, compared to 6-19 when homerless.
• Konerko ranks second all-time in homers (59) and RBI (176) during interleague play.
• Coming into Saturday's game, seven of the Sox' last eight wins have come by one run.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.