Manager Tony La Russa, Chicago White Sox leaders held meeting ahead of recent winning spurt

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa called a meeting with team leaders last Friday in hopes of helping turn their season around. The players in the room, including closer Liam Hendriks and first baseman Jose Abreu, spoke freely, and the White Sox won their next five games, all at home, where they have struggled.

"The message of the entire thing was positivity," Hendriks said. "Make sure we have a united front and positivity because these 8-10 guys that are in here right now are going to seep into every single person."

Hendriks first revealed the meeting in a radio interview on the Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 on Wednesday afternoon. Later, he expanded on the meeting, which took place before the White Sox hosted the Detroit Tigers.

"One thing that was stated by Abreu was our confidence turned into cockiness," Hendriks said. "That's one thing that several have said about the complacency level. We just expected to come in and roll over [teams] like last year. That hasn't been the case."

The White Sox have hovered around .500 for most of the season but made it to five games over .500 after sweeping the Tigers and then winning the first two games of a series against the American League-leading Houston Astros. They lost to the Astros 3-2 on Wednesday night.

"Generally, it's [a meeting] only when things aren't going as envisioned or as planned," Hendriks said before Wednesday's game. "Or you see something that is glaring that needed to be handled. Everyone understands this year hasn't been exactly the smoothest sailing for us ... but no one has ever doubted the talent level in this clubhouse."

La Russa added: "Mostly when you get this deep into the season, what can we do as a staff, you go area by area. ... There were a couple of tweaks to how we prepare that were helpful."

La Russa said he didn't call for the meeting after hearing starter Johnny Cueto's comments about the team needing to play with more "fire." He said he simply wanted to explore every avenue of messaging available to him.

"It's the latest example of communication that's been going on since the beginning of spring training," La Russa said. "We didn't get to the point of staying alive without having something special in that clubhouse."

The White Sox are in a tight division race with the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins and are attempting to leave no stone unturned. Last season, they won the AL Central by 13 games. It hasn't been as easy this time around.

"It's been to our own detriment, us thinking we can just go out there and roll over teams," Hendriks reiterated. "Looking back on it, guys are realizing, it's not an easy thing to go win the division two years in a row. We're moving in the right direction."