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Chicago White Sox: Right field and bench options


PEORIA, Ariz. — The Chicago White Sox know they’ll have Andrew Benintendi in left field and Luis Robert Jr. in center.

The competition will continue this spring for right field and reserve outfield spots.

“It’s not about their spring training statistics, it really isn’t,” manager Pedro Grifol said before Thursday’s dual-team games against the Kansas City Royals in Glendale, Ariz., and the Seattle Mariners in Peoria. “What matters is the way they control the strike zone, what matters to the team is what they bring to the table. How well do they fit the team?”

Gavin Sheets and Oscar Colás are the leading starters in right field for the Sox in 2023, with 61 and 59 homers, respectively. Sheets, who hit .203 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs in 118 games, made adjustments this offseason to “get more.” athletic at the plate.

“We’re allowing more room for error,” Sheets told the Tribune on Monday. “Last year I felt like I had to be perfect at every shot and I didn’t give myself a chance; if it wasn’t perfect it wouldn’t work.

“I like where it is right now.”

He was targeted twice against the Royals on Thursday while starting first base. He initially made three appearances; one as a hitter and the other at right tackle this spring.

Colás, who hit .216 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 75 games, had a few stops in the major leagues before finishing the year in Triple-A Charlotte.

“Last year was a very important year for me, a learning experience,” Colás said through a translator last week. “I didn’t know what to expect at this level. Now I know. I think this is very important.

“I think the biggest gain for me was controlling my anxiety. Don’t try to speed up the game. Don’t try to go too fast. Don’t try to go too fast or too slow. “On the same level.”

Photos: An inside look at White Sox spring training

Eloy Jiménez, who made 14 starts in right field last season and was largely a designated hitter, has been the sole DH in games this spring — where he’s a blistering 7-for-11 with six RBIs in four games.

Sox add outfielders Dominic Fletcher and Zach DeLoach in separate deals same day of february. DeLoach was acquired as part of a trade with the Seattle Mariners. His wife, Samantha, coaches an elite volleyball team and was helping her husband get statistics when he got the call about the trade.

“(Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto) was hearing all the whistling and screaming in the background, which I thought was funny,” DeLoach told the Tribune on Thursday.

DeLoach worked on the mental side of his game in the offseason.

“When I don’t have a live pitcher in the game, I put myself in counts in the cage, try to ease myself into two-strike counts, full counts, and try to see different pitches outside of the machine,” DeLoach said. “I challenge myself every day to improve as a player.”

DeLoach hit .286/.387/.481 with 23 homers and 88 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma in 2023. Fletcher, who came to the Sox in a trade from Arizona, hit .301/.350/.441 with two home runs. 14 RBIs and 10 runs in 28 games with two stints with the Diamondbacks in 2023. He also played in 66 games with Triple-A Reno.

Fletcher has already appeared left, center and right this spring.

“I feel comfortable going out there at any position,” he told the Tribune on Saturday. “Try to find a way to help the team and get into the squad.”

The Sox also have a number of experienced players in camp. Rafael Ortega, Mark Payton, Brett Phillips and Kevin Column each signed minor league deals in the offseason and are currently spring training as unlisted invitees.

White Sox outfielder Zach DeLoach pitches against the Cubs in a Cactus League game at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 23, 2024 (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

Ortega, who hit .219 in 47 games with the New York Mets last season, is ready to help in any way he can.

“I know those little things will help this team,” Ortega told the Tribune on Thursday. “The most important thing for a baseball player is to know who he is. And when you know who you are, you can focus on what you can do best and then do your best.

“This way you can help the team.”

Brett Phillips, who started 39 games with the Los Angeles Angels last season, pointed to some of the Sox’ offseason additions as a reason for joining the organization.

“When I saw the quality of the guys they signed, guys of character, I knew it would be a good fit for me,” he told the Tribune on Tuesday. “It’s a good feeling that you’re still wanted, it gives you the confidence and courage to play this game. “I’m still passionate about being the best I can be and working hard.”

The Sox also claimed Peyton Burdick off waivers last week.

“After (Thursday), there are two games and everyone will play, it will still take some time,” Grifol said of the early evaluation process for outfielders. “And so it should be. We are not rushing to make these decisions. These guys need to play and compete. Competition is healthy.”

Shoulder pain sidelines a pair of relievers

Grifol said right-handed relievers Jimmy Lambert and Joe Barlow are dealing with shoulder soreness. Lambert will likely be out for 10 to 14 days, while Barlow will be out for longer.

Lambert had a 5.26 ERA in 35 games (one start) for the Sox in 2023. Barlow, who spent the last three seasons of the Texas Rangers in the bullpen between 2021-23, is in the camp as a non-roster invitee.


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