White hopes adjustments net Texas' CF job
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rangers outfielder Eli White stayed home in South Carolina this past offseason, working on his swing with his longtime hitting coach Matt Morella.
White said he and Morella came into the offseason with a game plan on what he wanted to improve on going into camp and how to attack that plan.
In 19 games and 52 plate appearances in 2020, White hit .188 with just three RBIs and 16 strikeouts. In the offseason, he worked on specific pitches that he had trouble hitting -- down and in and up and away.
“I tried to put myself in a better posture to hit those pitches,” White said. “I also had a relatively big leg kick and a lot of movement in my pre-swing last year, and I tried to just simplify that and just to be on time, more consistently.”
White was drafted by the A’s in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft as an infielder out of Clemson. He’s spent the last few years in the Rangers system transitioning to a utility role before settling in as an outfielder this spring.
Settle in is exactly what he’s done.
White has played in nine games so far this spring, batting .368/.455/.632 after a 2-for-4 night in Tuesday's 10-6 victory over the Giants. He has put himself squarely in the middle of a center-field competition come Opening Day.
“I feel good out there,” White said. “It's still something that's relatively new considering the amount of time I've been playing baseball. But I feel good out there, I feel like I'm still learning stuff, but I feel like I'm a good defender. I work hard to get better every day out there but as far as where I'm at right now, I feel like I'm in a good place defensively.”
Manager Chris Woodward has emphasized that consistency at the plate will be the deciding factor between White and Leody Taveras at center field. The two have been almost identical players in the field this spring, consistently adding to an already solid defensive outfield.
Taveras started the spring slow at the plate, but has picked it up in the last few games to keep the competition interesting.
White said he and Taveras are good friends and they both enjoy the healthy competition of camp.
“We already have a good relationship and we bounce things off each other,” White said of Taveras. “With the COVID stuff we've been kind of separated. A lot of times we're in separate groups, so we're actually not around each other as much as we would have previously. We have a good relationship and we try to help each other out wherever we can.”
White hasn’t taken much of any reps in the infield this spring. Any work he’s done in the infield has been done for his own personal preparation and not out of a requirement.
White said that while he doesn’t like to put too much stock in results, he feels good where he is at this point in the spring. Woodward said he likes what White has been able to do in camp and is grateful to have to make a tough decision.
“A lot of what I'm trying to do is just swinging at good pitches, maintaining the strike zone, and judging myself off that and whether or not I'm barreling the ball,” White said. “I feel like I've been able to do that so far, pretty consistently. As far as my offseason and the adjustments I made, I feel like I'm right on track to where I was expecting to be.”