ANAHEIM, Calif. — The last time he stood in a major league clubhouse, Gregory Infante was 22 years old.
Six-and-a-half years and 12 minor league teams later, Infante, 29, is back. The White Sox purchased the right-hander’s contract on Monday and promoted him from Triple-A Charlotte. The eighth man in the team’s bullpen, Infante said he briefly reflected on all the hard work he has put in since he pitched for the White Sox in 2010 after he learned of his promotion.
“I was just happy because I worked a lot the last seven years,” Infante said through an interpreter. “I took a moment to realize all the work, all the teams I had to pass through the last seven years. It was a very satisfying moment for me.”
Infante struck out five batters in 4.2 scoreless innings for the 2010 White Sox.
Since then he has played for Charlotte (three times), Birmingham (twice), Albuquerque, Chattanooga, Buffalo (twice), New Hampshire (twice), Lehigh Valley and Reading. After he spent seven seasons professionally with the White Sox, Infante pitched in the farm systems of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.
He also pitched for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League seven straight years. That included this last season in Venezuela playing for Ozzie Guillen, who encouraged Infante to be unafraid with his fastball and attack hitters — “to be confident in my stuff,” he said. Infante posted 0.38 ERA and struck out 25 batters in 24 innings in Venezuela last winter and re-signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. He made three appearances for the big league club this spring and started the season at Charlotte.
Infante struck out 16 in 13 innings at Triple-A Charlotte and posted a 2.08 ERA.
[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
“I am very happy and glad to get this opportunity,” Infante said. “The last seven years were tough years, but I also worked a lot in the last seven to get to this point because this is where you want to be as a player.”
White Sox manager Rick Renteria suggested the White Sox could stick with an eight-man bullpen for some time. Though the team has the second-fewest innings pitched in relief (109) in baseball, the White Sox have two pitchers in their rotation who have yet to complete six innings in a start.
The moment isn’t lost on Renteria, either. He returned to the majors in 1993 with the Florida Marlins after last playing for the Seattle Mariners in 1988. In between, Renteria suffered what could have been a career-ending injury when he was struck in the face by a line drive at Triple-A.
“I’m sure he’s pretty excited,” Renteria said. “When you’ve been away a little bit, getting back, especially I’m sure he’s been working very hard to do what he needed to do to get here. We saw him in the spring and he did a nice job for us in spring. We brought him over from minor league camp to pitch a couple of innings. He’s been here. He’s experienced. Hopefully he’s comfortable with all of his teammates. We hope we can help him become comfortable and he can go out and do what he needs to do.”