Versatility adds value.
It’s a phrase those of us in the workforce have heard over and over.
That’s why Mark Grudzielanek, Danny Mendick’s manager in Triple-A Charlotte, told Mendick he would need to learn to play the outfield in order to get playing time at the major league level.
He was right.
Center fielder Luis Robert went down earlier this month with a strained hip that will sideline him for at least most of the season, and with Adam Engel, Adam Eaton and Eloy Jiménez out, too, Mendick was called upon to fit the bill.
Mendick has played a total of 60 games for the White Sox as a utility infielder, but for the first time in his big league career, he’s playing right field.
Mendick discussed how he’s been preparing for outfield action with reporters prior to Saturday's game.
“I’ve been going out there as soon as the bus gets here, getting my work in, working out there with [Daryl Boston] and, you know, doing drills, fundamentals, and then in [batting practice] tying to get as many live reps as I possibly can just to simulate the game,” Mendick said. “I’m excited. It’s gonna be fun, and like I said, just trying to get out there and do anything I can to help the team win.”
Mendick was clear about wanting to be the ultimate utility player, saying he “wants to be able to fill in at any position on the diamond.”
“You wanna be more versatile,” he said. “The only way to learn is to do it in a game, to understand, to be able to harness that adrenaline and go out there…”
So far, he’s delivered.
Mendick looked solid in two games in the outfield over the weekend in Kansas City, playing the ball a total of nine times. White Sox manager Tony La Russa thought so, too.
“I mean, he’s making plays,” La Russa said after Sunday's 9-3 win over the Royals. “He looks like a smaller version of [Luis] Robert.”
La Russa told reporters he expects starting right fielder Adam Eaton to play on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. Eaton sat out the past two games after returning from the IL last Friday from a bruised knee and hamstring injury.
Still, the White Sox can breathe a little easier knowing they have a capable outfield replacement while two of their starters are out with long-term injuries.
“Guys get banged up,” Mendick said. “I wanna be able to fill in at any place on the diamond … giving a guy a day off, to go out there – do everything I can to help win.”
Mendick’s bat is helping the team a lot, too.
He went 2-for-8 with three RBIs in two games against Kansas City over the weekend, including a two-run homer that contributed to Saturday’s eight-run first inning. He’s batting .333 through 24 at-bats this season, and has been particularly dangerous with two strikes.
“I’ve shorted my swing up with two strikes, and I really focus on keeping it in the strike zone because pitchers, they get comfortable with two strikes,” Mendick said after Saturday’s win over the Royals. “Now, they’re gonna throw something in the dirt or try to do something like that. Well, all of sudden, you work a good count, and now you’re 3-2. The pitcher’s like ‘oh man, now I really gotta throw a strike,’ and then he either throws a ball or he hits something hard. I just try to see it up, see it in the zone and then definitely don’t panic.”
Mendick seizing his opportunity with the team is a silver lining in the devastating injuries the team has faced. And he can thank his resume, along with Mark Grudzielanek, for the extra playing time he’s sure to receive.