Prospect Nick Madri­gal is bat­tling for the start­ing job.

Hahn says can­di­date for 2B ‘brings dif­fer­ent of­fen­sive dy­namic’

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGO SPORTS - By LaMond Pope

GLEN­DALE, Ariz. — Nick Madri­gal stood in the box.

Dal­las Keuchel stood on the mound.

Every op­por­tu­nity dur­ing the spring is a chance to grow. A chance to learn. And there was no bet­ter time for the White Sox prospect to gain ex­pe­ri­ence against top com­pe­ti­tion than Fri­day against the 2015 Amer­i­can League Cy Young Award win­ner.

“I’ve been want­ing to face him since he came on the team and we started do­ing live at-bats,” Madri­gal said Satur­day. “I was pretty ex­cited. You’ve seen him play on TV, you’ve seen all the suc­cess he’s had. I was ex­cited to get out there and see dif­fer­ent pitches. I’m a com­peti­tor and he’s a com­peti­tor, that’s why it makes it fun out there.”

Madri­gal took a pitch and then hit a hard one-hop­per back to the mound that got past Keuchel. The swing and re­sult is an ex­am­ple of what Madri­gal brings to the plate.

Madri­gal is one of three Sox play­ers, along with Leury Gar­cia and Danny Men­dick, bat­tling for the start­ing job at sec­ond base.

“My goal is just to show up every day and give every­thing I have,” Madri­gal said. “Noth­ing re­ally changes from last spring to this spring. I’m go­ing to con­trol what I can con­trol, and that’s show­ing up. I know every­thing else will work it­self out the way it’s sup­posed to. I’m not too worry about any­thing else.”

Madri­gal is the No. 40 prospect in base­ball, ac­cord­ing to MLB Pipeline. He had a com­bined .311/.377/.414 slash line with 27 dou­bles, five triples, four home runs, 55 RBIs and 35 stolen bases be­tween Class A Win­ston-Salem, Dou­ble-A Birm­ing­ham and Triple-A Char­lotte in 2019. He struck out just 16 times in 532 plate ap­pear­ances.

“He’s a dif­fer­ent type of hit­ter,” Sox gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said last week. “He puts the ball in play. He strikes out a very lim­ited amount. He’s still a guy who is ca­pa­ble of driv­ing the ball into the gaps and us­ing his speed to get ex­tra bases and caus­ing trou­ble for a de­fense in a dif­fer­ent way.

“We fore­see this team, not only this year but in the fu­ture, hav­ing the abil­ity to put the ball out of the park, and Madri­gal brings a dif­fer­ent of­fen­sive dy­namic and pro­file to help com­ple­ment that.”

Madri­gal’s 2019 in­cluded get­ting se­lected to the All-Star Fu­tures Game, along with team­mate Luis Robert. And Madri­gal re­ceived recog­ni­tion for his de­fense, win­ning the mi­nor-league Gold Glove at sec­ond base.

“We’re look­ing at this young man as be­ing able to do a lot of dif­fer­ent things,” man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said Satur­day. “He’s much calmer, this is his sec­ond year now in camp. He’s al­ready had a tremen­dous de­meanor, he’s fo­cused, he’s high en­ergy.

“The guys are talk­ing a lot about con­tin­u­ing to try to work on hon­ing in on him­self, take the bat-to-ball skills he has. De­fen­sively, he’s been very good, and all the drills he’s been do­ing have been pretty flaw­less. He’s just fit­ting in and he’s get­ting more and more com­fort­able.”

Some of Madri­gal’s fa­vorite as­pects early this spring have been see­ing the live pitch­ing.

“I hadn’t seen any arms over the off­sea­son,” Madri­gal said. “The last cou­ple of days have been nice, see­ing live pitch­ing and just get­ting back on the field with the guys. It’s get­ting back into the rou­tine of things.”

It’s all part of the process for Madri­gal, who has been an­tic­i­pat­ing 2020 “big time.”

“It was one of the long­est off­sea­sons I’ve had,” Madri­gal said. “By the end of it, I was ready to get back on the field and get things go­ing again. It’s nice to get some rest af­ter a long sea­son, but I was ready to get back to it, with all the play­ers we picked up. It’s a lot of ex­cite­ment in the club­house and be­hind the scenes. I was ex­cited to be a part of it.”

Gi­olito up­date: Start­ing pitcher Lu­cas Gi­olito said he’s “right where I want to be” fol­low­ing a bullpen ses­sion Satur­day. The ace has been slowed this spring by a mus­cle strain in his rib-cage area

Gi­olito’s day in­cluded sim­u­lat­ing long toss into a net and throw­ing 20 pitches off the hill.

“It felt very good,” Gi­olito said. “Right on track.”

Gi­olito said the next step will be an­other side ses­sion in “a cou­ple of days.”


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