Em­pha­sis on ‘Mad’

An­gry af­ter he didn’t make Open­ing Day ros­ter, 2B prospect Madri­gal glad to make de­but

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN | dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @cst_­sox­van

The White Sox’ top sec­ond-base prospect, Nick Madri­gal, felt like he be­longed on the Open­ing Day ros­ter, and, boy, did he want to be on it.

“I’ve never wanted some­thing so much in my life, just to be a part of this team right now,” Madri­gal said last week be­fore the ros­ter was set, “and I feel like I can help this team win.”

So when he found out his de­but would have to wait — as it turned out till Fri­day night in Kansas City, where the Sox opened a three-game se­ries — Madri­gal said he was “a lit­tle mad.”

How mad?

“He ac­tu­ally didn’t even shake my hand when he was told he wasn’t go­ing to make the club,” man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said. “He just turned around and walked out. And I was like, ‘OK.’ ’’

Madri­gal said he got “locked in” again be­cause “it’s not my style to pout and be an­gry for more than a cou­ple of days.”

“When you see a player re­act a cer­tain way, you un­der­stand it, you get it,” Ren­te­ria said. “It’s one of those things you love about a com­pet­i­tive na­ture. It was no in­di­ca­tion of who he is ex­cept that he’s a fighter. He wanted to make this club.”

The Sox pur­chased the con­tract of their 2018 first-round draft choice and pen­ciled him

into the lineup against the Roy­als. He bat­ted ninth against one of the Roy­als’ top prospects, left-han­der Kris Bu­bic, a friend of Madri­gal’s who also made his ma­jor-league de­but.

“I imag­ined this mo­ment for a long time, even since I was a lit­tle kid,” Madri­gal said. “It looks a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent with the sta­di­ums empty, but it’s still a dream come true and some­thing I’ve worked ex­tremely hard [to achieve] for a long time.”

The Sox have been start­ing all-pur­pose out­fielder-in­fielder Leury Gar­cia at sec­ond base, as planned, with Madri­gal waiting in the wings. By keep­ing Madri­gal off the ma­jor-league ros­ter for a week’s worth of games, the Sox se­cured an ex­tra year of con­tract con­trol, and there was no get­ting around the tim­ing of the pro­mo­tion.

Madri­gal, who grounded out softly to sec­ond base­man Nicky Lopez in his first at-bat — im­me­di­ately af­ter Adam En­gel’s homer against Bu­bic gave the Sox and lefty Dal­las Keuchel a 3-0 lead — doesn’t hit for power but should im­prove the Sox de­fen­sively up the mid­dle. In 663 to­tal chances over three mi­nor­league lev­els last sea­son, he made only five er­rors. Of­fen­sively, Madri­gal ex­cels at mak­ing con­tact, strik­ing out only 16 times and draw­ing 44 walks in 532 mi­nor-league plate ap­pear­ances last year, but he didn’t dis­tin­guish him­self at the plate with the Sox dur­ing spring and sum­mer camp. He ap­peared to be more re­laxed and his over­all per­for­mance im­proved in the sum­mer, how­ever.

In the home-run-happy, launch-an­gle era of baseball, will Madri­gal’s bat play in the ma­jors?

“We’re go­ing to find out,” Ren­te­ria said. “Will he serve a pur­pose for us? Ab­so­lutely.

“As he gets more com­fort­able with the pitch­ing, he’ll put balls in the gap be­cause he has bat speed. His over­all game is go­ing to be his plus. De­fend, run the bases, be part of the lead­er­ship out there in the field and give you at-bats that hope­fully drive pitch­ers crazy and open it up for the hit­ter be­hind him.”

A No. 4 over­all se­lec­tion, Madri­gal bat­ted .311 with a .377 on-base per­cent­age with four homers and 55 RBI in 120 to­tal games at the three mi­nor-league lev­els in 2019.

“I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily worry about the power,” Ren­te­ria said. “Those things take care of them­selves. But he has a his­tory of be­ing a win­ning player, and he has a his­tory of hit­ting some balls out of the park. Hope­fully, sooner rather than later, we’ll find out what kind of player he is.” ✶

JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IM­AGES

Sec­ond base­man Nick Madri­gal, who reached on a two-base er­ror, is out at the plate af­ter try­ing to score on a Leury Gar­cia sin­gle in the seventh in­ning.

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