GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Back home in Cincinnati after his first taste of the Major Leagues, White Sox center fielder Adam Engel watched hours of video, picked the brains of a long list of people and took hundreds of swings."I wanted to get to the point where when it came time
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Back home in Cincinnati after his first taste of the Major Leagues, White Sox center fielder Adam Engel watched hours of video, picked the brains of a long list of people and took hundreds of swings.
"I wanted to get to the point where when it came time to play games, I didn't have to think about what I'm doing at the plate," he said. "I can just go up there and be athletic and compete."
To simplify the explanation: He wanted smoother mechanics and a less cluttered mental approach in the batter's box. Among the White Sox success stories this spring, Engel's is near the top of the list.
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Far from the offensive struggles of last summer, he has had a solid spring, leading the White Sox with four home runs. His 1.021 OPS in 13 games reflects that so far he has done what he hoped to do.
He came to camp as the incumbent center fielder for the White Sox and has done nothing to lose the job. But others aren't making the decision easy for the club.
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Ryan Cordell, acquired from the Brewers last summer, has also been excellent, with three doubles, seven walks and a 1.060 OPS in 11 games. Best of all, after missing the final three months of last season with a neck injury, he's completely healthy.
"I feel really good," said Cordell, ranked the No. 18 prospect in the highly rated White Sox farm system. "It's been fun getting a lot of playing time, and getting out there and working with a new team. Happy for the opportunity I'm getting and just taking it a day at a time."
And there's Leury Garcia. He, too, is in the mix. He has had a tougher spring offensively with a .643 OPS with one double and two triples in 14 games. He did go 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple in a 7-2 win Thursday night over the Angels.
As Engel said, the competition has brought out the best in all of them.
"Yeah, I think competition is good," Engel said. "It keeps guys playing at a high level, keeps 'em sharp. I view it as a positive more than anything else. Just show up to the field every day and do my job, do what's asked of me and let them make the decision."
Because the changes he attempted have worked, Engel is confident he's on his way to figuring things out and becoming the player the White Sox have hoped he would become.
"Confidence is a big part of the game," he said. "Even when you're not getting great results, it's still important. It's not always results-oriented, but results can definitely feed into it."
Engel batted .166 in 97 Major League games last season. No matter how good his defense in center was -- and it was excellent -- he knew those rookie numbers had to get better.
So far, so good. Maybe he simply was going through some of the same things every young player goes through. He's only 26 years old, and two seasons ago, he sprinted through the White Sox system, opening the season at Class A Advanced and finishing in Triple-A.
Now about the defensive side of it. One of the things he figured out early on is that he could still impact winning even when he wasn't hitting. He knew he needed to hit more, but he also knew that his defense had opened eyes.
"If you play the game long enough, you figure that out pretty quickly, that there are different ways to contribute," he said. "If you want to stick around, you've got to find ways to contribute even when different parts of your game might not be helping the team out a whole lot. You've got to figure out what you've got and how it can help."
For Cordell, simply proving he can get back on the field and play without pain has been a step in the right direction. As for everything else, he'll let others make the call on that.
"I've got faith that God's going to put me where He wants me," Cordell said. "I've got a lot of peace about that, and wherever I start is not going to be where I finish. I'm absolutely working toward that goal of starting out with the team and making that Opening Day roster."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.