White Sox

Rick Hahn: Austin Jackson will mostly play CF for White Sox

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Rick Hahn: Austin Jackson will mostly play CF for White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A dynamic center fielder throughout his career, Austin Jackson will continue to play his best position with the White Sox.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Sunday night that Jackson, who signed a one-year deal for $5 million earlier in the day, would mainly play in center field when he’s in the lineup. Jackson has produced 49 Defensive Runs Saved in six seasons in center and has a career Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8 there, according to fangraphs.com. Hahn also indicated that current center fielder Adam Eaton is open to moving around while still spending some time in center himself.

“Most of, if not all of, Austin’s time will come in center,” Hahn said. “Obviously, a high quality defensive player out there and a lot of his value comes from having him in that spot. As I talked about with Adam Eaton at the end of last season and a couple times over the offseason and once again this afternoon, we also view Adam as a very fine defensive center fielder. He was one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove in 2014 out there and we think we’re stronger certainly from a defensive standpoint when we have both Adam and Austin out there in that same outfield. Adam’s expressed a willingness to do whatever we feel makes the most sense on a given day to win a ballgame whether that’s playing center field for Adam or DHing or being on one of the corners.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox outfield would be considerably better than it was in 2015 with Jackson in center and Eaton on one of the corners. Last season, the White Sox ranked 26th among 30 teams in DRS with minus-22 and 29th in UZR with minus-26.8.

Jackson is expected to report to the club on Monday morning. Hahn thinks Jackson, 29, could be ready for game action in 7-10 days.

The signing gives the White Sox more depth at a position in which it was sorely needed and further safeguards against injuries. It also offers manager Robin Ventura more lineup flexibility and a chance to play the best matchups if either Avisail Garcia or Adam LaRoche doesn’t produce as hoped. Last month, Ventura said he wanted LaRoche to earn playing time with a good showing this spring.

“Nothing has been promised to anybody,” Hahn said. “Obviously, as you’ve heard us say time and again, you’ve heard from Robin, when it comes to making out the lineup, Robin’s mission simply is to put the best team out there on any given night that’s going to put us in the best position to win.

“He need not worry about contracts or pedigree or a player’s history with us. It’s about getting the right guys in the right position to win that night’s ballgame.”

Jackson also gives the White Sox a surefire answer if Eaton’s throwing shoulder isn’t quite ready. But Hahn became the latest member of the club to downplay concerns, noting that Eaton continues to progress. Last week, Eaton said he’s 100 percent certain he’ll be ready for Opening Day on April 4. While he hasn’t yet played in the field, Eaton has appeared in three of the team’s four games so far.

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

On the day he returned from a weeks-long stay on the injured list with a hamstring strain, the sight of Yoan Moncada face-planting coming out of the batter's box was enough to make an entire fan base hold its breath.

Fans weren't alone, either. Asked if his heart skipped a beat when Moncada hit the ground in the seventh-inning, manager Rick Renteria went a step further.

"Two beats," he laughed.

Moncada was fine, it turned out, hurting nothing but his pride on that embarrassing tumble. The longest lasting effect will be the continued ribbing from his teammates. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez wouldn't let him hear the end of it before, during or after the third baseman's postgame meeting with the media.

"They've been all over me about that," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "They say I have weak legs and I need to more work in the gym.

"Everything's good. I have a scratch on my knee, but it's OK."

Other than that on-field folly, Moncada was stellar in his first game back from the IL. He blasted a homer into The Goose Island in his second trip to the plate, a two-run shot that kind of busted things open in what was a dominant 6-1 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers. He added a double in his third at-bat.

Moncada's 2019 slash line is up to .303/.359/.545 after picking up those two extra-base knocks Thursday night, continuing a breakout season that's seen him go from 217 strikeouts in 2018 to the White Sox best hitter a year later.

The 2019 season is about the development of the young, core guys much more than it is about the win-loss record at the end of the year. Moncada is one of those young, core guys, and his big season has been one of the things that has fans and onlookers thinking about 2020 as the year that could see the White Sox move from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Moncada and the rest of these young White Sox have a handful of weeks remaining in the 2019 to create some momentum for 2020. While offseason additions, the return of a healthy Michael Kopech and the eventual arrivals of top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal will have plenty to do with changing the landscape over the coming months, Moncada and Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez and James McCann and Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease can move the ball closer to the goal, to borrow a sports metaphor from a different sport, with their efforts over the next month and change.

For Moncada, the easiest way to do that is to simply stay on the field.

"I think our goal right now is just to stay healthy and play as free as we can," he said before Thursday's game. "Just try to do the things we know we can do and just take advantage of being healthy and being on the field.

"I think we're going to have a strong finish to the season and hopefully we're going to carry that to next season."

Fans know that importance, too, still waiting for the young trio of Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez to all play together in a full game for the first time since late June. That was supposed to happen Thursday, before Jimenez was scratched from the lineup with some mild hip soreness that neither general manager Rick Hahn nor Renteria seemed too concerned about.

But that heightened alertness for the health of these young, core players caused that brief second of panic when Moncada hit the dirt Thursday night.

Thankfully for the White Sox, Dr. Renteria got to the bottom of things rather quickly.

"It looked awkward, but you could tell he stumbled out of the box," Renteria said. "He was staying down there for a little bit. That’s when I started getting concerned.

"But when I go out there, he gets up right away. I said, 'You are little embarrassed right now, aren’t you?' He said, ‘No, it’s my knee.’

"I said, ‘You are embarrassed.' And he started smiling. That’s all it was. He was fine."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

Fresh off his complete game shutout against the Twins, Lucas Giolito goes in-depth with Chuck Garfien about his impressive victory and all that went on behind the scenes.

-What it was like striking out White Sox killer Nelson Cruz to end the game (7:30)

-How he beat a Twins team that's trying to hit a home run almost every time they come to the plate (10:00)

-What it will mean to get 200 strikeouts this season (11:10)

-What's different about the baseball (14:40)

-How he's helped Evan Marshall get in touch with actor Jason Segel (16:10)

-Making it a priority to beat the Twins to win a series against them (17:40)

-What he's doing mentally before each game that's different this year (18:30) and more.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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