Sox Insider

Sox spring observations: Abreu could be in lineup Tuesday

Sox Insider

José Abreu admitted Saturday, when he reported to White Sox camp after a positive COVID-19 test forced a delayed arrival, that he wouldn't be ready to play in the team's first Cactus League game the following day.

"I would be lying if I said I was ready," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I spent almost eight days doing non-baseball-related activities. I am definitely not ready to start playing tomorrow. But if the team needed me I would do it. But definitely I will need a few more days to get used to the live pitching and all that stuff.

"But it doesn’t matter if I feel ready or not I would play if the team needed me."

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Well, how about the team's third Cactus League game? It sounds like Abreu could be ready for that, despite just three days practicing at camp.

"If (Monday) goes well — and so far he has taken (swings in the batting) cage and ground balls," manager Tony La Russa said before Monday's 4-all tie against the Los Angeles Angels. "We have him (taking live batting practice) against a left-hander who is trying to make the team, a guy named (Aaron) Bummer.

"If all goes well, he said before the practice started, and (White Sox trainer James Kruk) agreed, he might be in the lineup tomorrow."

That's a quick turnaround for a guy who was watching workout videos on YouTube in a hotel room just a few days ago.

 

But this is Abreu we're talking about, the reigning AL MVP and a guy who's work and preparation are at the center of his consistent success and a big part of the reason the White Sox view him as such a role model.

He could be back as soon as Tuesday, giving him ample time to prepare for the start of the regular season, even after missing the start of camp.

Leury García can't promise an end to first-base slides

García, the White Sox utility man, was off to somewhat of an impressive start to his 2020 season. But he severed a ligament in his thumb after sliding into first base in a game in Detroit, ending his regular season. While he made it back in time to start the first two games of the AL Wild Card Series in Oakland, he was unavailable for the bulk of the shortened campaign.

You might think that would mean no more head-first slides into first base, but García couldn't promise we won't see that move again from him.

"That's definitely something that you can control, that I try to control, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you just react," he said through Russo. "It's difficult. But it's definitely something that I've been working on.

"I'm not planning to do it. But we'll see. I have to be in that position again to see. I'm going to try to not react that way, but we'll see. It's not easy. I know you can control it, but it's not always easy to do it."

Given García's ability to play six different positions — second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots — he's a valuable member of this White Sox roster, whether that's spelling a starter or providing a vital safety net in the event of an injury. So avoiding dangerous plays would be, you know, advisable, as well as important.

"One of those guys it would be unfair to not call him a regular," La Russa said. "He just is a regular at different positions. Keep him healthy, a lot of ways he can help you win a game."

Backup-catcher tracker: Yermín Mercedes goes for extra bases

The battle to back up Grandal saw its game-action phase get underway Sunday, when Zack Collins got the start in the spring opener.

Monday, it was Mercedes' turn, and he showed why his bat alone makes him worthy of consideration for the job, hitting a double to start a four-run fourth inning against the Angels.

Mercedes, not unlike Collins, has a tantalizing bat but faces questions about his defensive ability behind the plate. The two youngsters are juxtaposed with non-roster invitee Jonathan Lucroy in this particular position battle, the veteran bringing a history of working with big league pitchers.

How did Mercedes do behind the plate Monday?

 

"Yermín is a great guy back there," said White Sox reliever Ryan Burr, who threw to Mercedes during Monday's game. "He works extremely hard. He cares about having your back out there, is the biggest thing. You know when you're going out there to pitch and Yerm's behind the dish, he's going to back you up no matter what. And I thought he did a great job of trying to calm me down when he came out on that mound visit, just gave me a couple mental cues to try to get me back over the plate.

"The biggest thing is just his presence behind the plate. He controls the game, and he has your back out there and that gives you a lot of confidence."

La Russa pointed out that while Grandal works his way back, there will be greater in-game opportunity for the guys fighting to back him up. Mercedes took advantage Monday.

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