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Sheets, Burger could provide boost for Sox offense

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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With all the attention on what Rick Hahn's front office might do as the trade deadline approaches, it's important to remember that there's more than one way to try to boost a struggling offense.

With the Chicago White Sox in a 2-7 rut entering Tuesday and runs more and more difficult to come by, any approach to curing what ails them is welcome.

The most effective, in all likelihood, is getting healthy, though that won't be an instant fix as the team waits — even in hopeful fashion — for the returns of Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert. José Abreu and Yoán Moncada getting over their own nagging maladies will be beneficial, as well. So, too, will getting less integral but certainly helpful pieces Adam Eaton and Adam Engel back from their own ongoing injured-list stints.

RELATED: Sox clear Luis Robert to start next phase of rehab

As mentioned, that approach will require patience. Trades might, too, as the White Sox are in need about a month ahead of when impact deals typically get made.

But a couple hot bats have been waiting down in the minors, perhaps presenting a solution of some kind to the White Sox offensive funk.

 

And indeed, in his first major league at-bat, Gavin Sheets gave the White Sox their first hit Tuesday night against the division-rival Minnesota Twins. Before the fifth inning was over, he had two hits, a couple RBIs and a run scored.

Instant offense.

"I’m going to have a lot of energy for the game, obviously," he said Tuesday afternoon. "I’m not going to be a big vocal guy with the energy, but hopefully some of it’s contagious and a fresh face and some new excitement will bring some wins.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just continue what I’ve been doing in Charlotte, not try to change who I am or what I’ve been doing. ... Luckily, I’ve been swinging the bat well in Charlotte, so come right here and start playing right away."

Sheets was hitting nearly .300 at Triple-A Charlotte before getting called up for his major league debut Tuesday. He gave himself a better chance at a promotion by adding corner outfield to a defensive repertoire that leaned heavily toward first base the past few years. He started in right field Tuesday, and while Eaton and Engel heal their hamstrings, there's nothing saying that if Sheets' bat stays hot at the big league level that he couldn't soak up some playing time in the big league outfield.

"Made a real good impression in spring training," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "Also defensively, when he moved to the outfield, he made a lot of good plays. But he has been doing the job in Charlotte, and yeah, we could use some explosion out there when he comes to bat."

Sheets was the White Sox second-round draft pick in 2017, when they chose Jake Burger with their first-round pick. Burger has been the other offensive highlight down at Charlotte this season, and he celebrated Sheets' call-up with his 10th home run of the campaign.

"He’s swinging the bat great," Sheets said of Burger. "He’s just a great player. It’s been fun to watch him swing the bat.

"Just how hard he hits the ball. He’s a big, strong guy with big forearms, and he hits the ball hard, really hard. We hit 3-4 (in the Charlotte batting order), so I’ve had a front row seat this whole season with it.

"Great teammate, great person, and it’s been fun to watch."

Burger, too, is tearing things up at the plate, showing the kind of pop and production he was expected to before his career became defined by horrible injury luck. Finally healthy, he's also added a new position, playing second base of late. If he shows even a decent mastery of that position and keeps swinging a hot stick, maybe he'll be the next one to get a plane ticket to Chicago, as the White Sox could use some help at second base with Nick Madrigal out for the year.

 

Of course, this is hardly to suggest that Sheets and Burger would be saviors or cure-alls for the White Sox, who because they have been so devastated by injuries will need a more comprehensive effort to keep their roster championship caliber. Hahn will likely be aggressive at the trade deadline as he looks to cash in on a "sacred" chance to win the World Series. Sheets and Burger are unproven, of course, at the big league level, and while enticing, there's no knowing if they'd be the life preserver the offense has seemed to need the last couple weeks.

But they could indeed be part of that puzzle, worth a shot as they rake in the minor leagues. A White Sox team starved for offense has undoubted holes at second base and in right field, where outside a short period of time at the start of the season, Eaton has not provided much production as he's dealt with season-long leg issues. Sheets and Burger might not slide into the offensive roles expected of Jiménez and Robert. But they could certainly serve as upgrades in "next man up" roles subbing for some of their injured teammates.

And that could mean, the hope is, wins as the White Sox continue to aspire to championship-level success.

"This is what you dream about, what you play for," Sheets said. "You play to have fun, but you play to win games, to win a World Series, to be part of that, in the middle of it.

"June and July are important months. This is why you do what you do. To be in the big leagues is tremendous, a dream come true. But to play for a first-place team is what it’s all about.

"Safe to say I want to stick."

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