As of this morning, the White Sox are six games into their Cactus League schedule, or 21 percent of the way through the exhibition slate, which is ironic because that’s the same percentage of games that their exclusive television home decided to air this spring. Let’s get into some early returns and way too early overreactions from camp.
Roll ’em up
If you caught any of the action from the first week, you’re surely miffed by the new rules in place allowing teams to “roll” and inning, ultimately deciding after 20 pitches that they’ve seen enough and the inning comes to a dead-stop then and there. This happened twice on Tuesday afternoon against Texas with the bases loaded and the White Sox offense threatening to score some runs.
Hearing the boos from the limited crowd at Camelback Ranch inside the dugout on Tuesday, skipper Tony La Russa called for an unscheduled media scrum to assure fans that he will do anything he can to avoid shortchanging the paying fans in Glendale, and the fans watching from afar in their homes.
“There are all kinds of professional reasons why it makes sense,” La Russa said. “But fans are paying to come in games. I know they were disappointed, they voiced it several times, so from the White Sox side, we’re going to do everything we can to avoid doing it. And the way you do it, we’re going to try to get enough protection in an inning where we can maybe bring somebody, maybe from the minicamp, so we can finish the inning and the other team can score as much as they can. It’s purely the correct thing to do for fans.”
The Health and Safety Protocols adopted for Spring Training this season permit these types of actions, and games shortened to as little as five innings through March 13, when games will be required to play at least seven full innings. The rules are in place to protect regulars from being overworked with the lack of minor league reserves — the guys usually wearing No. 97 with no name on the back of their jersey — allowed to be in camp this spring.
La Russa surmised it perfectly, acknowledging the practicality of the rules being in place, while also acknowledging that it’s not fair to the fans paying good money to be in attendance for these games. Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of it as we enter the second week of Cactus League games on Monday.
We’re just a week into Cactus League action at this point, but Andrew Vaughn has already erased any doubt that he’s ready for the designated hitter role this season. Through four games Vaughn is 3-for-8 with a home run, four RBI, four walks, and just one strikeout, and really looking like a professional hitter who is comfortable and ready for the challenge of making the big jump to the major league level this spring.
Jose Abreu had some strong praise for Vaughn at camp earlier this week saying that he doesn’t “have any doubt he is ready to play in the majors and help us at the major league level. He [Vaughn] respects the game and works hard.”
Now it seems more of a question as to when Vaughn will join the team, rather than if. Will the White Sox buck the service time manipulation trend and open the season with Vaughn as their everyday designated hitter, or will they send him to Schaumburg to the alternate site for a few weeks to gain an extra year of control over him on the back end?
We can only hope that given their lofty self-imposed expectations of competing for a World Series this fall, that they’ll make the best decision for the team on the field when it comes to Vaughn’s fate in a few weeks when camp wraps up.
Backup Backstop Battle
With James McCann gone the White Sox came into camp with a question mark behind the dish as it pertains to who will be backing up Yasmani Grandal this season. Zack Collins seemed like the presumptive leader heading into camp, but veteran Jonathan Lucroy and fan-favorite Yermin Mercedes have made the most of extra playing time created by Yasmani Grandal’s absence in the early going.
Here’s a look at the battle between the trio as of the conclusion of the March 4 action, as Seby Zavala started yesterday’s game against the Mariners.
Way too early overreactions (to avoid)
It’s been a tough start for Yoan Moncada, a player many were hoping would have a hot start after a down 2020 campaign. Through his first four games, Moncada is just 2-for-9 with a pair of strikeouts. While putting stock into Cactus League numbers is never smart, Moncada’s swing still looks a bit late in the early going. But, as the headline suggests, being worried about Moncada would be an overreaction to avoid at this point.
Similarly, Eloy Jimenez is just 2-for-10 with three strikeouts through his first four games, and Tim Anderson is just 2-for-11 at the dish and booted a routine ground ball for an error on Friday against Seattle.
Aside from individual performances that we wish were looking better at this point, the team itself is still searching for their first Cactus League victory, checking in at 0-3-3 this morning. Doesn’t look like the White Sox will be taking home the illustrious Cactus Cup this spring.
If you’re sweating some of these early struggles, just remember that it’s March 6… take a chill pill.
Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox via Twitter