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.”

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Tommy John surgeries have knocked out two top White Sox pitching prospects for 2019 (Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning), but one pitching prospect is set to make a notable step in his return from the surgery.

Zack Burdi will join Single-A Kannapolis on a rehab stint on Monday. Burdi had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017. In his first game action since the surgery, he made seven appearances last August with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie level). The Downers Grove native made five more appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being pulled from the league due to “general fatigue.” He talked about his recovery process on an episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

In spring training, Burdi was not invited to major league camp and he wasn’t on a minor league roster when the season began. With this news, he is set to hit another milestone in his return. If all goes well in Kannapolis, it is expected that Burdi will join Triple-A Charlotte, where he was in 2017 when he got hurt.

If Burdi can recapture his stuff, which profiled him as a back end of the bullpen pitcher, he could even join the White Sox sometime in 2019. He has to show he is healthy and back to his old self first though. The 24-year-old was taken with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft and is the No. 16 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline.

Another prospect will be joining Burdi in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, No. 7 prospect in the system, will also join the Intimidators on Monday. Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during batting practice in spring training. It was initially estimated that he would return in late May, so Basabe appears to be ahead of schedule. The 22-year-old spent the second half of 2019 with Double-A Birmingham and is expected to return there after rehabbing with Kannapolis.

Elsewhere on the White Sox prospect injury watch, Luis Robert left a game on Saturday with soreness in his left hand and is reportedly day-to-day. He was hit by a pitch in the first game of a doubleheader for Single-A Winston-Salem. He made one at-bat in the second game, a leadoff groundout, and then was taken out of the game. He did not play on Sunday.

Robert endured an injury-plagued 2018. He was limited to 50 games, but has been on fire early in 2019. Robert leads the Carolina League in batting average (.475), home runs (6), hits (28), runs (16), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging percentage (.915) and is tied for the league lead in RBIs (18) and stolen bases (7).


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Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August


Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August

The White Sox and Tigers were likely to start Saturday's game (12:10 p.m. CT) in a rain delay. Instead, the game has been pushed back altogether.

With rain expected all afternoon in Detroit, Saturday's game has been postponed. A makeup is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 12:10 p.m. as part of a split doubleheader. The originally scheduled game will start at 6:10 p.m. CT.

According to a press release, all paid tickets from Saturday's game will be valid for the first game of the doubleheader.

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