White Sox

After undergoing an alternative to Tommy John, Chris Beck knows the dilemma facing Jacob deGrom

After undergoing an alternative to Tommy John, Chris Beck knows the dilemma facing Jacob deGrom

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While it’s not totally clear yet that their surgeries would be identical, White Sox pitcher Chris Beck has a sense for what Jacob deGrom is experiencing.

Last November, Beck avoided reconstructive elbow surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John, and instead had an ulnar nerve transposition, which requires several months of recovery time versus 12-18 months.

The procedure likely bears some similarities to the one the New York Mets pitcher will undergo in the future. The Mets announced Saturday that deGrom needs a “surgical repair” to his ulnar nerve, but it isn’t expected to be a significant procedure. Media reports have estimated the recovery time at three months.

While Beck, who allowed two earned runs in two innings in Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, was ticked to be inactive for two months last offseason as he recovered, he also knew he had avoided the big one.

“It’s scary at first because all the signals point to the one big surgery we try to avoid,” Beck said. “Obviously he played the same game I did, the waiting game, and tried to go through it, rehab it. Finally, just to get that news is a relief just because of how quick the turnaround is. Range of motion doesn’t take long to come back and then it’s just letting the nerve settle and then you’re good to go. I know it’s probably disappointing where the Mets are and the expectations are, but the mental side of it has to be a relief just like it was for me.”

Beck had the surgery Nov. 4. He wore a cast for a week, but had range of motion back before he had it removed. He said the only negative was the restriction from exercise of any kind for two months in order to let the nerve calm.

But Beck was throwing on a regular schedule in spring training and has had no limitations this season. He entered Sunday throwing his fastball at an average of 94.4 mph, according to fangraphs.com, up from 91.8 mph last year. While some of the increase in velocity can be attributed to a move from the rotation to the bullpen, Beck said he has never felt better.

“Honestly, improvement in stuff and the way I feel,” Beck said. “In high school they thought it was a bone spur in my elbow. When they would straighten it out there’d be a little pinching in the back. Ever since I had it moved there’s been no signal of that. It’s just how we’re built. Sometimes nerves are too short, in the wrong spot. Luckily for me it wasn’t the other one.”

It sounds like Matt Davidson won't be the next Shohei Ohtani after all

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USA TODAY

It sounds like Matt Davidson won't be the next Shohei Ohtani after all

Matt Davidson was totally serious when he talked about taking on a bigger pitching role. The White Sox, on the other hand, might not be as ready to throw one of their big bats on the mound on a regular basis.

Davidson made three relief appearances last season, helping to save the bullpen on a trio of occasions. In addition to giving up zero runs in those three innings, he got one heck of a highlight out of the experience, striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a game against the New York Yankees.

Davidson was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing, talking about how he grew up wanting to be a big league pitcher and how he’d love to be used in more high-leverage situations.

But general manager Rick Hahn said last week at the GM Meetings in Southern California that Davidson likely won’t be an important piece of the White Sox bullpen in 2019.

“He’s excited by the potential to add additional value to his club,” Hahn said. “I think he knows, still, his bread is buttered with the offense he provides. We’ve had conversations with Matty, we’ve had conversations with the agent about what potentially he could do in the future. And who knows, maybe someday that comes to fruition. But right now, the focus is on his offense.”

Asked if Davidson would log some innings during spring training, Hahn said:

“I don’t anticipate that right now.”

Position players pitching became somewhat of a popular practice across the game during the 2018 campaign, with managers hoping to save their regular bullpen arms in games with lopsided scores. And that’s what Rick Renteria did when he inserted Davidson into three separate games. But most of the other position players who got to pitch didn’t talk dreamily about wanting to go into full-time double duty.

With Shohei Ohtani grabbing headlines as a two-way player with the Los Angeles Angels, though, there was a concrete example of someone doing exactly that in the major leagues. And so began the speculation that Davidson maybe could do some more regular work as a reliever, the go-to guy for saving the ‘pen, so to speak, or even an option in higher-leverage situations.

But it seems like the White Sox don’t want to go down that road right now.

Davidson has enough to worry about on the offensive side of things. While he made huge strides in getting on base last season, increasing his walk total from 19 to 52 and his on-base percentage from .260 to .319, he batted just .228, struck out 165 times and saw a dip in his power numbers, hitting six fewer home runs than he did the year before and watching his slugging percentage fall to a career-low .419.

It's not to say that Davidson's pitching days are done. The strategy of pitching position players in an effort to save taxed bullpens doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so Davidson could still see action in the same type of capacity he did in 2018. But it's likely the White Sox will lean on guys who make their money as relievers when it comes to those high-leverage situations.

White Sox remain undecided on whether Yoan Moncada will move to third base in 2019

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USA TODAY

White Sox remain undecided on whether Yoan Moncada will move to third base in 2019

The White Sox still haven’t made up their minds about where Yoan Moncada will play in 2019.

Not even two years removed from being the top-ranked prospect in baseball, Moncada might be heading for a position switch following his first full season in the majors, from second base to third base. But general manager Rick Hahn said last week at the GM Meetings in Southern California that the team hasn’t made the decision to do that quite yet, saying that if it’s coming, it’ll happen closer to spring training, which makes sense considering the White Sox aren’t sure what their roster will look like until after offseason moves are made.

“We have not (made a determination on that yet),” Hahn said. “We’ve talked to the player, we’ve talked to scouts, had a lot of good conversations about it. Fundamentally we like versatility and flexibility in all our players. So in that specific example, Moncada’s ability to play third and second, that makes him more valuable to us. Should we eventually make a switch full time, that would be a decision we’d make closer to spring training and announce closer to spring training after the offseason plays out with how we’re going to line up.”

While it might be easy for some fans to see that as a negative following what was undoubtedly a disappointing campaign — in addition to his 217 strikeouts at the plate, his 21 errors were the third most in baseball — Moncada switching positions is likely more because of what the White Sox have coming up through the farm system. The White Sox spent the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft on middle infielder Nick Madrigal, who has a reputation as a defensive whiz up the middle. With the White Sox touting Madrigal as “the best all-around player in college baseball” after the draft and with Madrigal playing at three different levels this year in his brief time as a pro, it’s not difficult to see the possibility of him shooting through the minor leagues and arriving on the South Side in a relatively short time.

Because of that, the White Sox might be inclined to make room. And moving Moncada to third could help solve another question, as the White Sox have little in the way of long-term options at the hot corner. Jake Burger’s pair of Achilles tears earlier this year made his future a mystery. And while White Sox fans enjoy speculating about options from outside the organization like Josh Donaldson (a free agent this offseason) and Nolan Arenado (a free agent next offseason), it would make plenty of sense for the White Sox to spend at least a year seeing if Moncada can be a homegrown solution there.

It all makes up the puzzle that is this decision for the White Sox this offseason.

“Individually, you want to put the player in the best position to succeed for the long term. Flexibility, versatility of a roster factors into that, as well, to try to give (manager Rick Renteria) the best weapons at his disposal at any given game,” Hahn said. “And then you have to factor in the alternatives that you have and what’s going to put us in the best long-term position to win.

“If we wind up with having too many premium middle-infield prospects or big league performers, that’s a good problem to have.”