GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A newly crowded outfield shouldn’t have J.B. Shuck worried about his future with the White Sox.
Though he may be part of a camp battle for the final spot on the team’s roster, Shuck has a resume boosted by a season full of good impressions made with the White Sox. That familiarity with the front office and coaching staff still has Shuck on solid footing to make the team even though the White Sox signed Austin Jackson on Sunday.
General manager Rick Hahn even gave Shuck a strong endorsement after the signing. But Shuck said earlier this week he didn’t want to allow himself to think he has a roster spot sewn up.
“I think that’s the best way to get ready for a season and in my situation you never know what could happen,” Shuck said.
Shuck has been in the position where he was left without a roster spot before, so he won’t allow himself to think he has already made the club.
Coming off a solid 2013 campaign, one which earned him a fifth-place finish in the American League rookie of the year vote, Shuck lost his spot for the Los Angeles Angels to Kole Calhoun and spent most of 2014 at Triple-A before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians that September.
But the White Sox claimed Shuck off waivers that November and gave him every chance to make the club. He impressed them with his high energy level, base running, compact swing and ability to play all over the outfield.
“He’s been big for us all year,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said in October.
Shuck did his best work off the bench, with .820 OPS in 50 games and 49 plate appearances in that role.
It’s his comfort in the bench role that makes Shuck valuable to the White Sox. With Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Jackson and Melky Cabrera all competing for starts, Shuck isn’t likely to see many starts except in the case of an injury. But he knows that, which has helped Shuck to excel off the bench. He has worked out a routine and knows how to prepare.
“He did a very fine job coming off the bench for us last year filling that extra outfield role, playing good defense, getting some big pinch hits and obviously runs well,” Hahn said. “There certainly remains room for J.B. Shuck on that roster.”
Shuck is happy with how he performed for the White Sox last season, but he still set out to improve this offseason. Ideally, Shuck would like to increase his career .336 slugging percentage and made a few minor changes to his swing. He doesn’t want to improve his power but rather be more consistent driving it to the gaps.
But even if he does that, Shuck isn’t likely to allow himself to get complacent.
“I went back this offseason and tried to get better any way I can and hopefully I come in this year and show that I’ve gotten even a little better and whatever they need they see that I can do it and have confidence in me,” Shuck said. “I try to come in and make sure that I get ready to go and prove that I’m ready again this year to do whatever they need.”