GLENDALE, Ariz. — Charlie Tilson will begin the 2017 season on the disabled list, so the White Sox will have to look elsewhere to find their Opening Day center fielder.
The presumed frontrunner to be the White Sox Opening Day center fielder, Tilson hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game after being shut down Feb. 19, when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his right foot. The problem wasn't initially thought to be serious.
But Tilson will be shut down for a minimum of three weeks and is in a boot after a follow-up MRI Monday revealed a fair amount of swelling in his foot. The MRI did not reveal a fracture, so the original diagnosis of a stress reaction remains the same.
It's a difficult setback for the 24-year-old New Trier alum, who suffered a season-ending torn hamstring shortly after collecting his first career hit in his major league debut last August.
The White Sox have three players in camp who would be in the mix to start in center field April 3 against the Detroit Tigers: Peter Bourjos, Adam Engel and Jacob May.
Bourjos was a non-roster invitee to White Sox camp after spending the last seven seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. The 29-year-old native of Park Ridge, Ill., hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 plate appearances with the Phillies last year and has posted on-base percentages below .300 in each of the last three seasons.
But Bourjos has hit well this spring, collecting two more hits Monday against the Cleveland Indians to bring him to 10 hits in 27 at-bats (though he has yet to draw a walk). The White Sox have two spots open on their 40-man roster that could go to Bourjos and fellow non-roster invitee Geovany Soto.
May has hit well this spring, but hasn't been able to stay healthy as he's worked his way through the White Sox farm system. The nephew of former White Sox outfielder Carlos May appeared in 83 games with Triple-A Charlotte in 2016 with a .266/.309/.352 slash line.
Bourjos has rated as an above-average defender in his career (+36 DRS, +49 UZR) while Engel and May have shown good range and instincts in the outfield this spring (and both have made highlight-reel catches in the last week).
"We always have to be mindful of different options," manager Rick Renteria said Monday. "The reality is we've got all three of those young men beyond Tilly. They're working very hard. They're doing very well in the outfield. All of them are contributing to our part of the spring in terms of playing different positions, center field in specific."