Tony La Russa puzzled by Johnny Cueto questioning White Sox’ ‘fire’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — White Sox manager Tony La Russa didn’t like hearing veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto’s questioning of the team’s “fire” after its 8-3 loss to the Royals Wednesday night.

“I think it’s a curious statement,” La Russa said Thursday morning before the Sox closed out an eight-game road trip. “It’s better to be discussed within the family. If there’s a problem, straighten it out.

“I heard that he said that and I was surprised he said that. His opinion is welcome and it also carries weight, the guy is experienced. I’ll ask him about it.”

Cueto pitched six innings of three-run ball, battling without his best stuff and holding the Royals to two earned runs and exiting a tie game. Kansas City blew the game open against the Sox bullpen, and the Sox lineup, which has struggled for most of the season, had no answer.

“We need to fight,” Cueto said through translator Billy Russo after the game. We need to show the fire that we have — if we have any.”

La Russa pointed to a slick double play turned by second baseman Josh Harrison and rookie shortstop Lenyn Sosa, one of three double plays turned behind Cueto.

“Play that was made by the second baseman and shortstop yesterday?” La Russa said. “How did that happen? They weren’t fired up?”

Asked why he was surprised by what Cueto said, La Russa paused at length and chose his words carefully.

“I’m not sure how to answer that without … my answer, he’s a veteran, we all respect him and he’s someone to listen to but it’s surprising for … usually that’s better said in the clubhouse in front of your teammates. That way it can be discussed.

“Do you have children? A teenager one time, supposed to be in at 11 o’clock and came in at 1 o’clock, would you call the press and say ‘My son or daughter [did this]? Take care of it inside the family. There’s a reason the person was late, right? That’s how we should handle it. You’re always going to have issues and problems, handle it like a family.”

The Sox need to win against the Royals to split the series. They’re one game over .500 and fortunate to be trailing the first place Guardians by 212 games, and the second place Twins by 112 games.

They haven’t been able to sustain even a small winning streak playing a stretch of 19-straight games against teams with losing records. They’re 8-7 on it currently, and play the Tigers at home this weekend before playing the Astros and Guardians next week.

“It’s not even a switch [that needs to be turned on],” La Russa said. “The switch is on. Otherwise the games wouldn’t be close and we wouldn’t be where we are. But for things to come together and really get hot, that’s what we need to do. Get some good momentum with some guys feeling good at the plate.

“We’ve made some errors but we’ve made a lot of plays, too. If you watch us play you’ll see us make an error here or there but you’ll also see us play a lot of real good defense. So that’s there, and the pitching is there. We’re in a position to get hot. Talk is cheap.”

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