ALDS homer caps Sheets' rookie breakout
CHICAGO -- It was one year ago when Gavin Sheets was part of instructional league action with the White Sox at their Camelback Ranch complex in Arizona, working to learn right field and improve his overall game after being left off the team’s alternate-site roster in Schaumburg.
On Tuesday afternoon, in a 10-1 season-ending loss to the Astros before 40,170 at Guaranteed Rate Field attending Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Sheets homered and doubled against Houston ace Lance McCullers Jr. It was an amazing ride and development jump for the affable young left-handed slugger, who hit 11 home runs with 34 RBIs and an .830 OPS in 54 games.
Sheets joined Luis Robert (2020) and Tadahito Iguchi (2005) as the only White Sox rookies to homer in a postseason game. But his 2021 success only makes Sheets hungrier for more.
“Same goal -- just continue to build,” Sheets said. “If you told me last October that I would be sitting here right now in front of you, I would be thrilled. It's been an incredible year.”
Credit goes to Sheets for the hard work put in during the offseason, as well as his continued work with Triple-A Charlotte. But Sheets also gave credit on Tuesday to the veterans on the team who have lent their assistance.
“It was fun to watch and to talk about the group,” White Sox starter Carlos Rodón said. “We got to watch Gavin grow, be a pretty impactful player. It's hard to do as a rookie because it's very intimidating, but he showed up and played well, showed some people that he could play some baseball.”
“These guys are special. You know, Carlos is special,” Sheets said. “The veterans on our team are special, and I'm going to continue to work hard, try to be a part of this again next year and continue to chase the goal -- win a World Series. Whichever way that is and however I can help this team out, it's what I'm going to do.”
Where does Sheets fit on the 2022 White Sox? He’s a left-handed power bat the lineup sorely needs more of, and he can work in right field, at first base and as designated hitter. Sheets showed he’s a Major Leaguer, which is one of the many positive storylines from this rookie campaign.
“Yeah, just learning as much as I can,” Sheets said. “It was the experience, experience of being here, experience of being with a bunch of incredible veterans. You know, we got the taste of the playoffs.
“Obviously, right now it sucks. It hurts, but to be able to have this experience the rookie year, I think I can only grow from it. And I think as a team, it's the same way. We're only going to grow from it.”