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How much weight does Tigers series carry?

6/9/2014

CHICAGO -- Here come the Detroit Tigers for four games on the South Side starting Monday night, bringing with them a series that is difficult to pigeonhole into a standard formula.

Is it a series that could help define the American League Central Division moving forward?

Is it a measuring stick for the Chicago White Sox to see if they are a legitimate contender in a season when they weren't expected to compete for the playoffs?

Is it one that could reshape the roster restructuring plan for the White Sox's front office?

Quite honestly it is hard to say on all fronts, and not just because it is the second week of June with 3 1/2 months of baseball still to be played before the postseason begins.

Sure a sweep by either club would make a grand statement. A Tigers sweep would turn a 4 1/2-game lead in the division over the White Sox into an 8 1/2-game chasm that would leave general manager Rick Hahn and Co. on their same roster-reshuffle course.

A sweep by the White Sox would narrow the gap to a half game between them and the Tigers, although there is a chance that teams such as the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals would also remain ahead of them in the standings under such a scenario.

The idea of a sweep on either side is far from realistic, though.

Four competitive games against the Tigers would go a long way with how White Sox players perceive themselves, especially since they are up against a true playoff contender. The Tigers might not be playing to their capabilities right now, but they are still the team that all division foes must measure themselves against.

The Tigers have lost five of their seven games this month, but we have been here so many times with them in recent seasons. The Tigers always seem vulnerable at a certain point of the season and when August and September come around, they find the gear that nobody else in the division has and close out the AL Central in style.

No matter how the upcoming series shakes out, the White Sox still figure to be in the mode of flipping assets for young long-term talent at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Players such as Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo could still be packaged in July deals to get the White Sox an influx of young talent, although don't expect major-league ready guys along the lines of Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia in return. Reliever Matt Lindstrom also figured to be in that group of trade possibilities, before an ankle injury put him on the shelf for three months.

What the White Sox can show against the Tigers this week is less long-term possibilities and more short-term potential.

So what can the Tigers series really do for the White Sox?

For starters a solid showing would indicate they are capable of moving past something like a demoralizing three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels.

Healthy and at home with warm weather finally, can Jose Abreu turn it on after a 1-for-13 showing against the Angels, including a four-strikeout game Saturday?

Chris Sale, who is scheduled to pitch in Thursday's series finale, can show that he is capable of moving past the disappointment of Saturday's blown five-run lead when the Angels Mike Trout tagged him with a grand slam in the eighth inning.

And say what you want in hindsight about manager Robin Ventura's decision to leave Sale in that game in the late innings. There isn't a single White Sox player who doesn't appreciate a manager's decision to let a player, especially one like Sale, work his way out of his own jams. That aspect of the game carries weight as well.

So if the upcoming series needs to be about anything, it can be about fight and heart and how much of it the White Sox have inside of them. Showing some of that would be progress in itself, because fight and heart is something the White Sox had already run out of, essentially by this time last season.