GLENDALE, AZ – Will Oscar Colas be the White Sox starting right fielder on Opening Day?
It’s one of the biggest questions this spring for Pedro Grifol and his coaching staff.
The answer might not be as simple as saying the word “yes,” but judging by how Colas has been racing full speed to first base after routine ground balls in the infield during Cactus League play, he seems to want to reach the major leagues with every ounce of his being.
“He’s running hard. He’s busting his ass,” manager Pedro Grifol said about the White Sox 24-year-old prospect.
If they were only looking at his bat, Grifol could probably write Colas’ name in the lineup for March 30 against Houston in permanent ink and leave him there. He’s hitting .391/.417/.435 so far in spring training. He leads the White Sox with 9 hits and has recorded only one strikeout in 24 plate appearances.
And he’s yet to show his light-tower power that was on display last season in the minors. “He’s a beast,” is how one minor league coach described him. Until the beast is unleashed, the White Sox are perfectly fine with his eight singles and one double.
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“It’s early in spring, too,” said White Sox hitting coach Jose Castro. “He’s getting used to this type of pitching. We like to see the hitter. The power’s there. At any time it can just go off.”
The White Sox love his bat. If Hawk Harrelson was in the broadcast booth, he’d be raving about his TWTW (“the will to win”). Colas seems to be loaded with it.
But to Grifol, there’s much more to this sport than seeing balls fly over the fence. On days when you’re not hitting homers, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to fundamentals.
For Colas, class has been in session since he arrived at spring training.
“Everything is important,” Grifol said about Colas. “To him backing up a base, to him throwing to the right base, to him not being flat footed on a fly ball. I’ve spoken to him about it. All our coaches talk about it everyday. I love hearing his name in the meetings everyday from a lot of our coaches in different areas. That’s what it’s about.
“I said in the beginning that I want to see mistakes. When we make mistakes we learn. We’re all in this thing together. I hear his name (in coaches meetings) everyday and I’m happy as hell everyday that I hear his name because I know he’s going to be better. Today he’s going to get better because of the mistakes he made yesterday.”
Colas isn’t just hearing the message. Grifol says it’s sinking in and he’s improving, sometimes daily.
“His secondary leads a week ago or five days ago are not even close to his secondary leads yesterday and the day before. Not even close,” Grifol explained. “He’s hitting the timing on contact, his body is in motion, he’s ready for balls in the dirt. He’s aware when he doesn’t back up a base. He’s aware when he doesn’t hit a cutoff guy the right way. He knows where the cutoff guys are going to be and what kind of distance they’re going to have. Absolutely he’s getting better.”
“And even if he makes mistakes, now he’s starting to come in and say, ‘I know. I got it.’ Which is what we want. We want him to be aware of these things and then all of sudden, how to correct them himself. That’s what this is about.”
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Colas has even surprised them. Like, who knew that he was a knack for bunting?
“(Mike) Tosar told me he’s a really good bunter,” Grifol said. “We’re working on a two-strike approach to make sure he doesn’t get big, puts the ball in play. He has the capabilities to hit the ball the other way. It’s a development process, too. Just because he’s here and has a chance to make the team and is competing for a job doesn’t mean we just let him go and stop developing. It’s just the opposite. It’s the same thing for everyone else. Shit, I’m developing. Castro is developing. Tosar. Everyone’s developing in my opinion.”
Thursday, Colas wasn’t physically in the lineup, but the White Sox still had an important plan for him.
“He’s going to be standing by Tosar the whole game or most of the game. He’s not off. He’s off from the physical stuff today, but he’s not off from the mental side and the developmental side of it. Not even close,” Grifol explained. “We got to take advantage of that. Full advantage of that.”
Opening Day is three weeks away in Houston. Will Colas be there? He’s doing everything in his power to be there, even if the power hasn’t arrived. Yet.