Lead­off, 2nd base set for Sox, who still have ques­tions

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CUBS AND WHITE SOX - By La­Mond Pope

Thanks to a busy off­sea­son, most of the pieces were in place for the White Sox when they ar­rived in Glen­dale, Ariz., for the start of spring train­ing.

It was just a mat­ter of putting to­gether the puz­zle.

The Sox an­swered some ques­tions be­fore Ma­jor League Base­ball’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend spring train­ing and de­lay open­ing day be­cause of the coron­avirus pan­demic. Other top­ics still need to be ad­dressed when­ever the team re­sumes ac­tiv­i­ties. Here’s where the Sox stand.


Top of the or­der: The Sox had a few di­rec­tions to go at the top of the or­der.

Would they give top prospect Luis Robert a crack at the lead­off spot? The cen­ter fielder spent the bulk of last sea­son lead­ing off while do­ing dam­age at three mi­nor-league lev­els.

Would they place their top free-agent ad­di­tion, Yas­mani Gran­dal, in the No. 2 spot to take ad­van­tage of his abil­ity to get on base? Gran­dal fin­ished fourth in the ma­jors with 109 walks in 2019 with the Brew­ers.

So far, the plan ap­pears to be head­ing in another di­rec­tion.

With a po­ten­tially loaded lineup, man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria wants to bat Robert lower as he tran­si­tions to the ma­jors. And Ren­te­ria sees Gran­dal bat­ting any­where be­tween No. 3 and No. 5.

For most of the Cac­tus League games fea­tur­ing the reg­u­lars, the Sox went with Tim An­der­son and Yoan Moncada as the one-two com­bi­na­tion in some form. An­der­son led the ma­jors with a .335 av­er­age last sea­son, and Moncada was third in the Amer­i­can League at .315.

An­der­son walked only 15 times in 2019 but did lead the Sox with 17 stolen bases. Moncada stole 10 bases and has a goal of run­ning more of­ten in 2020.

Luis Robert’s expectatio­ns: There was plenty of buzz around cen­ter fielder Luis Robert, who came to terms on a six-year, $50 mil­lion con­tract dur­ing the off­sea­son. Robert han­dled the hype well and dis­played sev­eral of the skills that make him one of the game’s top prospects.

Robert had a .333/.394/.567 slash line with two dou­bles, one triple, one home run and two RBIs in 11 games this spring. He also went 3-for-3 in stolen bases.

Robert and left fielder Eloy Jimenez home­red in the same game Feb. 29 against the Rangers. Jimenez, who hit 31 home runs as a rookie last sea­son, said the next day, “You’re go­ing to see that a lot this year.”

Sec­ond base: The Sox en­tered spring train­ing with Leury Gar­cia, Danny Mendick and Nick Madri­gal vy­ing to be the open­ing­day starter at sec­ond base.

Gar­cia is the vet­eran of the group. He has played all over the field, al­though he spent the largest chunk of his big-league ca­reer as an out­fielder. Mendick hit .308 in 16 games last sea­son after join­ing the Sox as a Septem­ber call-up. Mean­while, Madri­gal is the No. 4 prospect in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, ac­cord­ing to MLB.com.

None of the three hit higher than .235 this spring. Mendick had a .235 av­er­age, Madri­gal hit .222 and Gar­cia bat­ted .200.

While the Sox have not an­nounced a starter, it ap­pears Gar­cia had the in­side track, hav­ing been in the lineup with the pro­jected starters the most this spring.


26th man: Out­fielder Nicky Del­monico spent parts of 2019 with the Sox and their Triple-A af­fil­i­ate in Char­lotte, N.C. He un­der­went sea­son-end­ing surgery on his left shoul­der in May and was re­leased in June.

He signed a mi­nor-league con­tract with the Sox this off­sea­son and re­turned as a non-ros­ter in­vi­tee to spring train­ing. Del­monico then had a healthy and pro­duc­tive spring to emerge as one of the top can­di­dates for the 26th spot on the ros­ter. He hit .250 with one home run and four RBIs.

If the Sox are look­ing for more in­field depth, Ch­es­lor Cuth­bert is a pos­si­bil­ity. Cuth­bert hit .407 with three home runs and six RBIs in 14 spring games.

Bullpen spot: Most of the bullpen is in place. Closer Alex Colome re­turns. Same with top setup men Aaron Bum­mer and Evan Mar­shall. Jimmy Cordero, Kelvin Her­rera and Jace Fry are also back, and the Sox added vet­eran Steve Cishek in the off­sea­son.

At least one spot is avail­able. Car­son Ful­mer, who had a 1.86 ERA and 11 strike­outs in 9 2⁄3 spring in­nings, is among the ex­pe­ri­enced options.

Michael Kopech’s next step: Michael Kopech made his re­turn to the Cac­tus League a mem­o­rable one.

The right-han­der, who missed all of 2019 while re­cov­er­ing from Tommy John surgery, had one strike­out while re­tir­ing the side in or­der in one in­ning of work March 10 against the Rangers.

When asked about his time­line after the start, Kopech said: “They have a plan in mind, and if I don’t fit into it right away, then I hope to fit into it at some point. Right now I’m just go­ing to do what I do, and hope­fully they get me there at the right time.”

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