Fin­ish­ing kick

In­con­sis­tent yet re­silient Mon­cada heat­ing up at end

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGO SPORTS - By Phil Rogers Phil Rogers is a free­lance re­porter for the Chicago Tri­bune.

Yoan Mon­cada hasn’t played in a World Series but he be­lieves he knows what it will feel like when he does.

It will be like this week­end’s White Sox series against the Cubs at Guar­an­teed Rate Field, with a chill in the air and stands packed with fren­zied fans.

“I think this is the clos­est thing you can get to a World Series game from a reg­u­lar-sea­son game,” Mon­cada said Satur­day. “It’s a real nice feel­ing. I can feel it.”

Op­ti­mism is one of Mon­cada’s great traits. The 23-year-old Cuban is a strong believer in what he and the Sox are do­ing, and a strong fin­ish to his first full sea­son in the ma­jor leagues is re­ward­ing his faith.

Mon­cada was hit­less in Satur­day’s 8-3 loss to the Cubs after go­ing 3-for-4 in the White Sox’s vic­tory on Fri­day. He has nine hits in his last 21 at-bats and is hit­ting .310 in his last 26 games. He’s look­ing ex­actly like the guy the Sox ex­pected to get from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade.

“I credit that suc­cess the last cou­ple of weeks to work I’ve done all sea­son,” Mon­cada said through Sox in­ter­preter Billy Russo. “When you work harder, sooner or later the re­sults are go­ing to be there. That’s the key.”

Mon­cada is far from a com­plete pack­age, of course.

“As you know, I’m al­ways look­ing for more ways for him to im­prove,” coun­try­man Jose Abreu said. “He has plenty of room to im­prove and get bet­ter, to de­velop.”

Mon­cada leads the ma­jors with 207 strike­outs, on pace for 219, only four short of Mark Reynolds’ ma­jor-league record. His OPS is down from .750 a year ago, which looked like the start­ing point for a great ca­reer.

Mon­cada went through a hor­ri­ble stretch in the mid­dle of the sea­son. He hit .197 with 118 strike­outs in a 76-game stretch from May 27 through Aug. 23 be­fore a me­chan­i­cal ad­just­ment that hit­ting coach Todd Stev­er­son sug­gested clicked for him.

Mon­cada is hold­ing his hands higher, which Stev­er­son be­lieves puts his swing on a bet­ter plane.

“That’s a part of the so­lu­tion,” man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said. “The rest of it con­tin­ues to be ap­proach and un­der­stand­ing the op­po­si­tion and stay­ing within your­self.”

Ren­te­ria never stopped writ­ing Mon­cada’s name on the lineup card when he was strug­gling. It was eas­ier to keep play­ing Mon­cada, he has said, be­cause the sec­ond base­man never seemed to get down on him­self.

“This is my first whole year in the ma­jors,” Mon­cada said. “I learned a lot. I think if I keep applying the things I learn ev­ery day I can im­prove and I can be a very good player. I’m pretty con­fi­dent I can be that base­ball player that every­body thought I can be, and the great base­ball player I know I can be.”

JOHN J. KIM/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

In an up-and-down sea­son, White Sox sec­ond base­man Yoan Mon­cada is fin­ish­ing on a strong note.

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