Sox Reporter

How Yermín Mercedes started 2021 so hot

Sox Reporter

"Keep it Yermín."

Looks like we might have found a catchphrase to go along with the South Side's newest sensation.

Yes, the Yermín Mercedes Show rolled on Monday night. The scene changed from Anaheim to Seattle, but Mercedes kept on raking, adding three more hits to his white-hot start to the season, on base four times in the White Sox 6-0 win. He's up to 12-for-18 in four games, with three doubles, a home run, six RBIs and four runs scored.

RELATED: Mercedes helping Sox fill Eloy-sized hole in lineup

The factoids are starting to overwhelm as Mercedes plows his way deeper and deeper into the record books.

These were passed along by the White Sox in the middle of the latest Mercedes romp:

— His 12 hits are the most by any player in the modern era over his first four career starts.

— He is the first player with three or more hits in a game three times in his first four career starts since Hall of Famer Roy Campanella in 1948.

— His 12 hits are the most by any White Sox player over his first four games of a season, surpassing Ducky Holmes’ 11 in 1904.

— He is the first White Sox player with three or more hits in a game three times in his first four games of a season.

Mercedes is stepping up big time, providing the production the White Sox wondered how they'd get when Eloy Jiménez went down for five to six months with a ruptured pectoral tendon. That Silver Slugger shaped hole in the middle of the lineup will be hard to plug for the entirety of a season. But in the campaign's opening days, the White Sox are living up to their "next man up" talk, thanks to Mercedes.

 

"Somebody needed to step up," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said after Monday's game. "We needed to have that next man come up and do their job. Hopefully he keeps it going. We all know he could hit. So it seems like he’s right where he needs to be."

For as hot as Mercedes is right now, this was not exactly forecasted during the spring. Not only did it seem like there'd be a roster crunch at the catcher position that would keep him from the big leagues, but his bat wasn't quite as fiery during Cactus League play. The guy who was smoking baseballs during spring 2020 put up milder numbers this year, with just a .674 OPS in 21 games.

But Jiménez's injury opened the door, and Mercedes hasn't just slid his foot in that door, he's kicked it down.

it turns out that's due, in part, to some helpful words from Grandal during the spring.

"He talked with me and said, 'Keep doing what you are doing all the time. Don’t try to change if somebody tells you to change this or change this,'" Mercedes recalled. "He said, 'Keep it Yermín.' I’m Yermín, so I don’t want to do another thing. 'Just be the same guy all the time. Don’t change anything. If you do something, keep doing that.' That’s helped me a lot. He talked with me and I (said), 'You are right. I tried to do another thing, and it’s not working much.' But then I came back, and I do Yermín."

"It just so happens that an extra spot opened up and we were able to bring him along," Grandal said. "Obviously, we work together on a daily basis on the catching side, and even in spring training, even when he was going bad there, I had to kind of put him on the side and kind of give him a kick in the behind, you know, so he could get it going. Because we all know he could hit, and we needed somebody to step up after Eloy, and it excites me that he was the one that kind of took over that role."

You might wonder how long this can last, as baseball has seen hot starts fade away time and time again. Mercedes isn't going to hit .667 with a 1.684 OPS for the whole season — at least I'm pretty sure he won't.

But maybe we should stop doubting the guy who has made the most of his chance after a decade in the minor leagues and independent ball.

 

"That’s me. That’s Yermín," he said. "So all the time, when I do this, probably nobody has a chance to (get) me out. That’s Yermín."

White Sox manager Tony La Russa said prior to Monday's game that his plan was to play Mercedes in the first two games of the series in Seattle, then give someone else a chance to get some playing time in the series finale Wednesday — unless, maybe, Mercedes managed to bang out six or seven more hits.

Well, after Monday, he's halfway to earning another start.

But White Sox fans might most be looking forward to getting to see the latest fan favorite in action on the South Side. The team returns from its season-opening road trip for the home opener Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"I know he shouldn't play the Opening Day at home. I don't think our fans are excited to see him," La Russa deadpanned before laughing. "I'd be booed in the introductions."

So it's a safe bet Mercedes will be the starting DH when the White Sox play their first game in front of the home fans since 2019.

And those fans aren't the only ones looking forward to it.

"I’m so excited," Mercedes said. "I want to see my fans over there on Opening Day in Chicago. I want everyone to talk to me. I want to see my people. I want to see the Yermín fans, the Yerminator fans. I’m so excited, I can’t wait."

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