With Mendick sidelined, Sosa gets chance

June 23rd, 2022

CHICAGO -- Danny Mendick knows about making the best of opportunities.

The 28-year-old, who was a 22nd-round pick by the White Sox in the 2015 Draft out of UMass Lowell, worked his tail off to get to the Majors. And during the 2022 season, Mendick became a consistently productive force playing shortstop while Tim Anderson was on the injured list from May 30 to June 19 due to a strained right groin.

Unfortunately for Mendick, his on-field misfortune has now presented the same sort of opportunity for rookie infielder Lenyn Sosa. Mendick’s season came to an end during a 9-5 White Sox loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday, when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee after colliding with left fielder Adam Haseley while chasing a Santiago Espinal foul popup caught by Haseley to end the second.

Mendick -- who slashed .289/.343/.443 with four doubles, three home runs, 15 RBIs and 22 runs in 31 games this season -- isn’t sure when the surgery will take place. He’s already facing the rehab with the same feistiness and ferocity he attacked every day in the Majors.

“You have to go in there, recover, rehab it, get better and get ready to go for when I come back,” said Mendick, whose return target is the start of Spring Training 2023. “I didn’t think it was going to be that bad initially. There was probably some adrenaline in there. But when I was down, it definitely hurt. And I couldn’t put any pressure on it. The MRI came back, and they said I had a torn ACL. I was like, ‘All right, there’s a plan.’ I have to figure it out and rehab it and be back.”

Even with Anderson taking his normal spot at shortstop, manager Tony La Russa had talked about Mendick getting increased time at second with Josh Harrison and Leury García. That plan now involves Sosa, who feels more comfortable at shortstop, but is ready to play anywhere.

Sosa, 22, arrived at the White Sox clubhouse Thursday around 3 p.m. CT with a smile on his face akin to him winning the lottery. The No. 22-ranked White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline, exchanged high fives and hugs with teammates and coaches, then went out to take batting practice.

Through 62 games with Double-A Birmingham, Sosa is slashing .331/.384/.549 with 10 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs, 48 RBIs and 47 runs. He leads the Southern League in average, hits, RBIs, runs scored and ranks among the leaders in slugging percentage (4th), OPS (4th, .933), home runs (T-4th) and on-base percentage (8th).

Fans wanted Sosa in the lineup Thursday. La Russa indicated he’ll start at least once this weekend against the Orioles, with Friday a possibility.

“For right now he’s going to help wherever he can,” La Russa said. “But when you’re putting together the year he has, you’ve got to believe he’s going to be an everyday player. He’s been everyday down there and he’s tearing the cover off the ball. The fact he can play three infield spots makes it easier.”

“This is a big opportunity,” said Sosa through interpreter Billy Russo. “I'm just blessed for this opportunity. I think all the hard work that I've put in day in and day out since I started playing baseball has now come to fruition.”

Hard work is a familiar concept to Mendick, who dedicated himself to become proficient as the White Sox third catcher by catching bullpen sessions and even live BPs. That work will take on a different look over the next few months following surgery, but he’s ready.

“I’m going to come back stronger than ever. I’m excited for it,” Mendick said. “I was able to get up and prove what I can do, and I know having this will make me stronger and I can continue to do it. I understood my swing and how I wanted to attack balls. Now I get to heal, get stronger, be ready for Spring Training. I can implement all that with having a strong physical physique.”