White Sox

Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez has 'really impressed' White Sox

Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez has 'really impressed' White Sox

Original plans called for him to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, but Omar Narvaez has accelerated those with his play.

Though he has only appeared in eight games since arriving last month, the White Sox’ rookie catcher has impressed. Not only has he lived up to the scouting report as a reliable backstop whom pitchers like to throw, Narvaez has proven to be a difficult out in a small sample of plate appearances. Given his inexperience, the White Sox weren’t certain what they’d receive when they promoted Narvaez, who’d never played above Single-A before this season.

It’s safe to say that Narvaez, who is hitting .409/.552/.455 and has reached base in all eight games, has exceeded the team’s hopes and has earned more playing time.

“Frankly, none of us really knew exactly what to expect,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He’s really impressed us.

“He has probably accelerated our internal timeline of when we were thinking he probably could contribute by what he’s done over the last several weeks.”

A minor-league Rule 5 draft pick in 2013, Narvaez went to big league camp in spring and made a nice impression on the staff when he appeared in four games and reached base five times in 10 plate appearances. But because he’d never before played above Single-A, Narvaez started the season at Double-A Birmingham and was fifth on the White Sox’ catching depth chart behind Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila, Hector Sanchez and Kevan Smith.

It was only after multiple injuries to Avila and Smith, as well as the club losing Sanchez to a waiver claim, that Narvaez reached the majors. He arrived July 6 when Avila went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and didn’t play for seven games.

Narvaez doubled in his first major league at-bat on July 17 and later scored a run, which snapped a 34-inning scoreless streak for the White Sox. Since then, Narvaez has played eight times in 27 games and he’s reached base in each one.

“O’s been swinging it pretty good,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He has earned the right.

“Everywhere he’s been he’s been a good receiver that can throw. But right now he’s also offensively doing some pretty good things, too. When you’re up here and it looks like a professional at-bat and an educated at-bat you earn the right to keep playing.”

Even though he has hit, Narvaez said the glove is where his focus remains. Originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, Narvaez isn’t as concerned with hitting as much as being a good defender and game caller.

“I always try to concentrate catching-wise,” Narvaez said. “I don’t worry about too much hitting. My goal is to keep my defense strong …

“If you hit, it’s just a plus.”

Bullpen catcher Mark Salas said Narvaez is quiet behind the plate, meaning he doesn’t move around much and offers pitchers a nice target with the glove. He also receives the ball well, Salas said.

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Pitcher Carlos Rodon agrees with Salas and said he has quickly developed a nice rapport with Narvaez. Narvaez has caught each of Rodon’s three starts since he returned from the DL late last month (Rodon has a 3.44 ERA in that span) and the two also briefly worked together at Single-A Winston-Salem in 2014. In those two games, Rodon allowed an unearned run and struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings. As much as Rodon likes throwing to Navarro and Avila, he hopes the White Sox keep Narvaez around when the latter comes off the DL.

“We’re always on the same page,” Rodon said. “Don’t get me wrong, the other guys are great. They’re awesome, excellent. But I just feel really comfortable with Omar. He just calls well.

I just see the glove big. I’m just comfortable with him.”

The club has grown more comfortable with Narvaez, too.

Both Navarro and Avila are free agents after this season, which could lead to another transition behind the plate. There’s belief that if Narvaez continues to perform he could earn a role as the club’s backup catcher in 2017. Not bad considering how far down Narvaez began the season on the depth chart.

“Omar has done an outstanding job based strictly on the fact that he had about 60 games above A-ball before we called him up to the big leagues,” Hahn said. “You never like to have injuries. If there’s ever any silver lining to any of this, it’s that it gives some young guys the opportunity to prove themselves at the big league level and Omar certainly has taken advantage of his shot.”

Tim Anderson reacts to the death of Kobe Bryant

Tim Anderson reacts to the death of Kobe Bryant

People from the world of sports and beyond continue to react to the death of Kobe Bryant.

Before he became a baseball player, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson played basketball while growing up and was, like many other basketball fans across the world, a fan of Bryant's.

Now a professional athlete himself, he reacted to the news and reflected on Bryant's impact on his life and the lives of others.

"Kobe Bryant is definitely one of the greatest basketball players to play. You hate to see something happen like that. Prayers to his family," Anderson told NBC Sports Chicago's Chuck Garfien on Monday. "It hits home. It's his kids, his family. His daughter was with him. You hate to see something like that happen. I'm praying for his family. I have girls of my own, so it definitely hits different when it's someone like that.

"Kobe Bryant's an icon and inspired so many kids and is still inspiring people in today's sports, even outside of basketball. So you hate to see something happen like that. The prayers are with him and his family, and I'm praying that they get through this."

Bryant's daughter, Gianna, was also among those killed in Sunday's helicopter crash. Anderson has two daughters of his own.

"It hits, like I said, (when you think about) his kids. You instantly think about his family and his kids," Anderson said. "Just knowing the guy that I am, I love my family to death, I love my kids. I couldn't imagine having to go through that. But I want to continue to uplift his family and continue to send prayers. I think everyone needs to gather around them in a moment like this and give all the support you can."

Anderson expanded on some of the ways he looked up to Bryant, the basketball player, as well as Bryant the person.

"He definitely was someone I looked up to," Anderson said. "His desire to win and the way he stepped on that court, and the way he played each game was definitely to win each game. So he definitely inspired me in that aspect.

"Every time you shoot a 3, you're going to say, 'Kobe!' I think that's automatic when you pick up that basketball, every person that shoots is like, 'I'm Kobe.' That's how he inspired African-American guys and not just African-Americans, kids all over the world.

"And even the things he did off the court, a real businessman and first class how he handled his things, just so professional the way he did it.

"He was all over TV, he was all over the place, all over magazines and stuff. His long career with the Lakers was definitely enjoyable to watch. I was such a huge fan. But you hate to see something like this happen to such a great guy and a great father and just a great person overall."

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High praise for Andrew Vaughn, including a Paul Konerko comp

High praise for Andrew Vaughn, including a Paul Konerko comp

Andrew Vaughn is getting a lot of love.

The White Sox first-round pick in last year's draft, Vaughn is a slugging first baseman who was downright sensational in his collegiate career at Cal. Now, he's one of the White Sox highest rated prospects and a guy who could soon be swinging his powerful bat on the South Side.

Just how highly do the White Sox think of him? Here's director of player development Chris Getz talking about Vaughn at SoxFest over the weekend:

"He's a very talented kid, and he's talented for a lot of different reasons," Getz said during a Saturday-afternoon seminar. "When you look at the physical ability, especially in the frame that he has, and what he's able to do to a baseball, it's pretty fun to watch.

"But when you sit down and talk to Andrew Vaughn about hitting, that is the most impressive thing. I sat down, and I just wanted to listen and learn from him. It's like talking to a 10-year vet. I say that because he knows exactly what he needs to do to have success. He has a very advanced approach, and I don't think he'll ever waver from it. He knows exactly what he needs to do on a daily basis to have success against a particular pitcher.

"So Andrew Vaughn's a good one. We're happy to have him."

The White Sox are obviously biased, but the love for Vaughn doesn't stop once you get outside the organization. MLB Pipeline unveiled its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball Saturday, and Vaughn ranked No. 16 in the game, ahead of fellow White Sox youngsters Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal.

And this ought to get White Sox fans salivating even more. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked on Twitter to compare Vaughn to a major leaguer. Mayo came up with one of the best hitters in White Sox history.

So the obvious question is now when we'll see Vaughn swinging in the big leagues. He's obviously a year behind his fellow first-rounder, Madrigal, who is expected to reach the majors in the early portions of the 2020 season. But Vaughn might not be very far behind. He only played 29 games at Class A Winston-Salem last season, and in his first full season as a pro, it wouldn't be surprising to see him start at Winston-Salem again. That's speculation, but it would make sense considering it's where Madrigal and Luis Robert started in 2019 and both ended up playing at three levels. Because of the way those two flew through the system, it would not be surprising to see Vaughn reach Triple-A in 2020, as Mayo said. All would have to go as well as things went for Madrigal and Robert, of course, but given the rave reviews of Vaughn's talent, that shouldn't be out of the question.

While the White Sox have exhibited plenty of patience with their prospects in recent years, they could also be looking at a new situation: being in a pennant race in September. If that's the case, and the lineup could use a little oomph, would they consider bringing Vaughn up in order to help them reach the postseason for the first time in more than a decade? That was a much easier question to answer when no playoff spots were on the line. Now, maybe things could be different.

An interesting element to all this is what kind of room there will be for Vaughn. Jose Abreu isn't going anywhere for the next three seasons, at least. However, the team gave itself some flexibility at the DH spot, with Edwin Encarnacion only on a one-year deal. That contract has an option for the 2021 season, but if Vaughn proves himself ready, the White Sox could move on from Encarnacion after just one year and open up an everyday spot for the young slugger.

Until then, we'll just have to rely on more rave reviews like the ones from Getz and Mayo. And if the guy turns into the second coming of Konerko, well, that will fly go over rather nicely on the South Side.

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