White Sox

Daniel Palka confident season-opening slump will end: 'It's not possible to go 0-for-500'

Daniel Palka confident season-opening slump will end: 'It's not possible to go 0-for-500'

"It's not possible to go 0-for-500."

In case you were concerned Daniel Palka's sense of humor has been affected by his season-opening slump, don't be. That line got some laughs during his chat with reporters Sunday morning in the White Sox clubhouse.

But Palka has found out the hard way that it is indeed possible to go 0-for-21. That's where he stood entering Sunday's contest, still searching for his first hit of the 2019 season after the White Sox played their first eight games. It's been an obviously dreadful beginning to an important, "prove it" year for the guy who blasted a team-high 27 home runs as a rookie in 2018.

Coming out of nowhere after not even starting last season on the 25-man roster, Palka worked his way into the conversation about the rebuilding franchise's long-term future. He looked capable of being a dangerous bat off the bench, thanks to that left-handed power and knack for clutch hits. As every big leaguer does, he has his eyes on an everyday role. Through persistent questions about his defensive ability, he worked his butt off, practicing his outfield glove work before nearly every game. And all the while, he earned fan-favorite status for his joking nature during interviews and his willingness to interact with fans.

But the White Sox painted him into a bit of a corner when they traded for Yonder Alonso, relegating Palka to outfield duty even though he seemed best suited at designated hitter. The outfield remains crowded, with Eloy Jimenez locked into the everyday job in left field and a rotating cast of characters — Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Ryan Cordell and Jon Jay, who's yet to return from a season-opening stay on the injured list — contending with Palka for playing time in the other two spots.

Roster moves are coming. Ervin Santana is expected to join the starting rotation next week, though the White Sox haven't publicly committed to that just yet. Jay will eventually return from the IL. Will someone in that outfield get squeezed out? Will it be Palka, the guy who led the team in homers last season? Baseball is a results-based business, after all, and Palka has no results to speak of in the early going.

"Obviously I'm not off to the start I was looking for," Palka said. "There are positives, things feel good, it's just a little bit of pressing right now. Kind of took a step back after yesterday and just restarted. Mechanically, everything looks good. It's just a matter of one dropping in there and getting started. I think the thing that annoys me most is that I'm not contributed to wins. I want to give the guys high fives on my side, too. It's just a matter of staying positive. Not much else to say about it.

"At the end of the day, I've got to know who I am and let my features contribute to the team instead of trying to be something I'm not."

In 2018, Palka certainly showed off attributes that could make him a valuable asset to any lineup. He brought a lot of power — and the exit velocity to go with it — and a flair for the dramatic. But in addition to the work he needed to do on his defense (work he believes has paid off in the early going this season), there were other numbers that needed a boost. He batted just .240 with a .294 on-base percentage. He struck out 153 times in 124 games.

Those flaws in his offensive game are glaring at the moment. He's hitless and though he's walked twice (one with the bases loaded for an RBI), he's got nine strikeouts in 23 plate appearances.

What's the solution?

"Realistically, I've just got to be patient," Palka said. "I'm not someone who gets a lot of pitches to hit because of some of the successes I've had. My mentality is always like, 'I want to do it, I want to do it now.' I've just got to take a step back and be patient up there."

"I haven't necessarily had any 1-on-1s with Palk. He's not a touchy-feely type guy," manager Rick Renteria said Sunday. "He's a guy that likes to work. He stays to himself quite a bit. I think more than anything, a pat on the back and just an encouraging word as he passes is something we continue to do. He continues to work with (hitting coach Todd Steverson) to get his approach back in order so he's able to take advantage of that powerful swing he has. Sincerely, more for him, it's managing pitches he can control and do something with."

Certainly the White Sox have given no indication that Palka is in danger of going anywhere, and Renteria has consistently stuck with Palka in the thick of the lineup (he did get a day off Sunday, along with Garcia). So it's on Palka to figure this out so he can begin his work of staying in that long-term conversation.

"It's a slump, and I'm going to get out of it," he said. "I'm the same me. It's not going to just magically disappear. I feel good about things."

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Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

The White Sox rebuilding puzzle is getting closer to completion.

Zack Collins is reportedly en route to the major leagues, according to a report from Miami talk-show host Andy Slater. That adds another one of the White Sox highly rated prospects to the growing list of them at the big league level as the franchise’s contention window looks set to open relatively soon.

Collins was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016, selected with the No. 10 pick that year out of the University of Miami. Currently ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the farm system, he’s always been praised for his offensive abilities. Last season at Double-A Birmingham, he finished the year with a .382 on-base percentage and launched 15 homers, also winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game.

In 48 games with Triple-A Charlotte this season, Collins owns a .258/.382/.497 slash line with nine homers, nine doubles, 38 RBIs and 35 walks.

Collins has been lauded as a big bat, but there have been questions about other parts of his game as he’s risen through the system. From the day he was drafted, there were questions about his defensive ability, leading to speculation that he might one day end up at a position besides catcher. He’s also racked up the strikeouts in the minors, with 396 of them in 322 games over his four minor league seasons.

But the White Sox haven’t wavered in their confidence that Collins can be a big league catcher, and it looks like that’s the position he’ll fill should the White Sox call him up before the start of next week’s Crosstown series with the Cubs. Welington Castillo was removed from Sunday’s loss to the New York Yankees with back tightness. The team said Castillo will be reevaluated on Monday. With this report of Collins’ promotion, it looks like Castillo could be headed to the injured list.

Another top prospect reaching the majors adds another tangible example of rebuilding progress. Fans have been clamoring for the promotions of Dylan Cease and Luis Robert all season long, and while Collins might be a little further down in the rankings than those two, this should still please fans who, even in a season filled with positives, want to see a more rapid advancement toward the rebuild’s ultimate goal.

Collins will perhaps benefit from a lack of pressure, what with James McCann in the midst of a potentially All-Star season as the White Sox primary catcher. The White Sox could perhaps continue to lean on McCann, allowing Collins to ease into the major leagues.

But just like Michael Kopech last August and Eloy Jimenez in March, Collins’ mere arrival is a step forward in this process, one that should please fans immensely.

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Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues


Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues

Yoan Moncada's battle with his back issues might not be as over as we thought.

The third baseman made his return to the White Sox starting lineup Sunday following a four-game layoff due to a mild back strain. But his return didn't last long. After a fourth-inning strikeout in his second plate appearance of the 10-3 loss to the visiting New York Yankees, Moncada was removed from the game with what the team announced as upper back tightness.

Moncada is described as day to day. The White Sox have an off day Monday ahead of the start of a two-game Crosstown series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

"He's doing good. I think I'm not the only one who noticed his grimace in the swing. It made no sense to continue to expose him to that," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "All indications are he should be ready to go on Tuesday.

"Didn't seem to put him in any predicament. Hopefully it didn't set him back. All indications are that hopefully he'll be back on Tuesday."

Moncada was removed from Monday's game against the Washington Nationals with what was initially described as back spasms. Renteria updated the verbiage to a back strain in the following days. Moncada missed Tuesday's game against the Nationals, went through a Wednesday off day and then missed the first three games of the four-game weekend set with the Yankees. His return lasted all of four innings Sunday before he was taken out again.

"Just watching the swing, watching the finish, which is what I was concerned with, getting through the ball. He's ready to get through the ball, it's just the finish. He's feeling a little something there," Renteria said. "You can't replicate it in any drill work. We've tried to do it. Everything he did was good. All the work he did was good.

"Everything we tried to do to replicate it, it wasn't existent until you get into the game, then you know. That's why I think it was a good — I don't know if you want to call it a test, but it was a test. We wanted to see where he was at. Didn't make any sense to continue to push him. Get him ready and calm it down and get him ready for the series against the North Siders."

Moncada wasn't the only White Sox hitter removed from Sunday's game. Welington Castillo, who was the designated hitter, was taken out with what the team announced as lower back tightness. Renteria confirmed after the game that Castillo's injury came on his swing in the second inning, a line drive off the center-field wall that ended up as only a single. Castillo will be reevaluated during the off day Monday.

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