POWERFUL —ON & OFF THE FIELD
DH Encarnacion’s presence lengthens lineup, provides leadership for young Sox teammates
Edwin Encarnacion is feeling much better now and, at age 37, still has some pop in his bat.
There’s always room for more power in a lineup, especially when you’re trying to match bombs with the slugging Twins in the American League Central. And Encarnacion’s addition to the White Sox this season also provides an example for a blossoming team loaded with young players.
‘‘It gives us depth and lengthens an extremely good lineup,’’ bench coach Joe McEwing said. ‘‘It was a good lineup before. It makes it extremely longer.
‘‘And the professionalism, you can’t put a number on it.’’
The Sox have swung and missed on signing free-agent designated hitters in the past
— Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche fell short of expectations — but kept on swinging by signing Encarnacion to a one-year, $10 million deal with a club option for 2021. Encarnacion has clubbed 30 or more home runs in eight consecutive seasons, and nobody in baseball has hit more since 2012. Encarnacion has amassed 297 in that time with the Blue Jays, Indians, Mariners and Yankees, including 34 for the Mariners and Yankees last season.
‘‘When he steps in the box, it’s a model of consistency in what he has done throughout his career and what he’s capable of doing,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘It means so much to every individual in that locker room, and every time we step on the field, it’s a different presence.’’
Encarnacion stepped in against lefthander Aaron Bummer — arguably the Sox’ toughest reliever to hit — and clubbed a homer into the third row of the centerfield seats in the Sox’ first intrasquad game Thursday. He punched a single through a vacated right side of the infield Tuesday, sending Tim Anderson from first to third.
‘‘I’m just glad he’s on our side now,’’ Bummer said. ‘‘And I’m glad that he got one [against me] when it didn’t count. It’s just kind of fun to watch.’’
Bummer said he likes the look of the Sox’ lineup with Jose Abreu, Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal and Eloy Jimenez manning the middle. And with Anderson and Yoan Moncada (when he returns) at the top and Nomar Mazara, who was acquired in an offseason trade, and Luis Robert probably in the lower third. Unless Robert forces his way higher up, that is, which he figures to do eventually.
‘‘Going out and throwing against your own guys, it’s kind of fun to begin with, just to see that,’’ Bummer said. ‘‘And then all of a sudden you see the lineup we’re putting out there. I walked in, it was Abreu, Encarnacion, Eloy. It’s not going to stop. I think the depth of that lineup has gotten a whole lot longer, and I’m glad that they’re all on our side.’’
When spring training was suspended by the coronavirus March 12, Encarnacion was working through a sore hip and back, which he says are fine now. He has played in every intrasquad game since Thursday.
‘‘The break helped me just to get better from my soreness in the lower back,’’ Encarnacion said through a translator. ‘‘I took advantage of [the time off], and I feel very good, strong physically.’’
Encarniacion made good use of his time while also healing up during the break. He teamed with former and current MLB stars to raise more than $1 million to support the Dominican Republic and the country’s fight against the coronavirus. More than 40 players from the Dominican, including Mazara and reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Sox, made donations and encouraged others to give money for life-saving supplies, including ventilators, masks, test kits, disposable suits, hand sanitizer, cleaning items and food. The initiative was created through the Pedro Martinez Foundation.
‘‘This idea comes because, in the Dominican, every player does something for the city where he is from,’’ Encarnacion said.
What he might do for the South Side, McEwing — for one — can’t wait to see.
‘‘You can’t measure what he means to this ballclub,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘Not just in the clubhouse but on the field.’’
Slugger Edwin Encarnacion has hit 297 home runs since 2012, more than anyone in the major leagues. NAM Y. HUH/AP