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Notes: Flores learning from vets; McRae perfect in debut

@scottmerkin
February 24, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Bernardo Flores makes the start Tuesday afternoon in Goodyear, Ariz., during split-squad White Sox action against the Indians, the southpaw will be putting into play lessons learned during the first two weeks of Spring Training.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Bernardo Flores makes the start Tuesday afternoon in Goodyear, Ariz., during split-squad White Sox action against the Indians, the southpaw will be putting into play lessons learned during the first two weeks of Spring Training.

Those lessons have been imparted by veteran hurlers Gio González and Dallas Keuchel, with González discussing Flores’ changeup and Keuchel helping out with Flores’ cutter.

“Just like the small little keys,” Flores Jr. said. “I had the tendency of slowing up and things like that on the changeup, and Gio explained to me, ‘Hey you have to throw it like a fastball, throw it with conviction. Just start it pretty much middle and let that thing sink or fade out.’ Just gravitating to that is one of the things I’m taking in and learning.

“Also working with Dallas, working on my cutter because before I was in-between a slider/cutter type of deal. Working with Dallas and throwing with conviction, showing me some grips and where to start it at and when to throw it in certain situations and when to use it, it’s helped tremendously.”

Flores Jr. enters the 2020 campaign as the 27th ranked White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He posted a 3.57 ERA over 20 starts covering three teams in ’19, including a 3.33 ERA in 15 starts with Double-A Birmingham. Flores Jr. left a start on May 28 with a strained oblique and didn’t return to the Barons until Aug. 8, although he did make four appearances with the Arizona Rookie League squad and one with Class A Kannapolis in between.

“I’m feeling great,” Flores Jr. said. “Picking up a few things from the older guys as I go. But overall the body, the mind is feeling pretty good.”

Big Dodgers hitters? No problem for McRae
Non-roster invite Alex McRae had a pretty good start to Spring Training by throwing two perfect innings against the Dodgers on Monday, marking the White Sox first 2020 Cactus League game at Camelback Ranch despite being the road team. The right-hander retired Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernandez, Will Smith and Matt Beaty before being replaced by Adalberto Mejía. McRae struck out Smith.

The White Sox and Dodgers ended in a 2-2 tie, with Yermin Mercedes launching a mammoth home run among his two hits and Nicky Delmonico adding three hits. As much as wins are always fun to add up, manager Rick Renteria isn’t looking at the final score to measure Cactus League progress.

“Playing winning baseball is important,” Renteria said. “We want to do everything we can as clean as possible. Catching the ball, making the right play, throwing to the right bases. Running the bases well, having good at-bats, giving yourself a chance for the outcome you are seeking.

“The other club has a hand in that as well, but if at the end of the day if we come out with a victory, it’s a lot nicer even in spring to come back to the clubhouse with that than a loss. That being said, I don’t want to play bad baseball. We win a game and we play poorly, again the victory is relative. It’s how we are going about doing our business.”

Grandal making progress but not back yet
The White Sox are still being conservative in regard to catcher Yasmani Grandal's return to game action from a left calf strain, wanting to avoid any sort of injury reoccurrence.

“I don’t want to give you a date certain, but it’s still at least a minimum week to 10 days away,” Renteria said. “The most important thing right now for us is to make sure that the calf is healthy.

“All indications right now in everything he is doing, the goal will lead us to that direction and then, ultimately, it will be trying to get him back behind the plate so he can catch full games. He should be, as far as we’re concerned, ready for the season.”

Renteria added Grandal is catching a lot of sides and taking extra hitting. He also did some measured sprints Monday.

“It’s just us incrementally increasing the intensity of the spring work that he’s doing,” Renteria said.

They said it
“Stats don’t count. So, seeing somebody execute, that’s what’s most important to me. Even if we give up a hit or don’t get the result we want, the execution and going about a game plan that’s what I like to see in Spring Training.” -- White Sox catcher James McCann.

Up next
The White Sox have split-squad action Tuesday with a game against the Indians in Goodyear and then a home contest against the Giants at Camelback Ranch. Both games have a first pitch of 2:05 p.m. CT, with the home game being broadcast via a whitesox.com webcast. Bernardo Flores starts for the White Sox in Goodyear, while Drew Anderson starts at home. Look for many of the White Sox regulars to be part of the lineup at Camelback.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.