White Sox show confidence in Maldonado despite tough stretch at plate

June 9th, 2024

CHICAGO – The White Sox added veteran catcher Martín Maldonado via a one-year, $4.25 million contract with a 2025 option for his exceptional work with pitchers and his overall leadership.

It was not a free agent signing based on his offense. But after an 0-for-4 showing during a 6-4 loss to the Red Sox in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, ending the White Sox two-game winning streak, Maldonado has hit a low level of production not expected by the team or the accomplished veteran.

He’s 7-for-99 over 35 games with one double, one home run, and a .235 OPS. Maldonado is 1-for-46 with one RBI in his last 15 games, with his last hit coming on May 11 against Cleveland, and is hitless in his last 35 at-bats.

“I’ve been in this game long enough to understand that’s the nature of the game,” Maldonado said. “The only thing you can control is keep working, put in my work on a daily basis.

“I’m doing that. The outcome at the end of the year is going to show up. I couldn’t be this bad for the whole season. We play this game for results. I take it one day at a time.”

Maldonado hit in the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs after left-hander Brennan Bernardino struck out Oscar Colás with runners on second and third and one out and then intentionally walked Lenyn Sosa. Maldonado fell behind at 0-2 before flying out to center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela, leaving the game tied at 3.

In the eighth, with the White Sox leading, 4-3, and Sosa on third with one out, Maldonado chased a Kenley Jansen cutter up and well out of the zone for a swinging third strike. The White Sox didn’t score in the frame, and Boston tied the game with one run in the ninth.

Manager Pedro Grifol defended his move not to go to a pinch-hitter, such as catcher Korey Lee, in either situation.

“We’re in a 3-3 ballgame in the sixth inning, and there’s a reason why Maldonado catches. And there’s a reason I give Korey days off, too,” Grifol said. “Korey had run a stretch of 10 or 11 games in a row and Maldonado does a really good job behind the plate, but I understand. I get it.

“[Maldonado's] not swinging it. It’s a hot topic every time he catches. It’s going to continue to be a hot topic. And I’m going to continue to make decisions that I feel are best for the team, not just offensively, [but] defensively as well. Bottom line is we took a 4-3 lead into the ninth, and yeah, we could have extended it there, but I like him in these types of games, in these types of situations.”

Grifol said he was “kicking” himself for not going to right-handed-hitting Danny Mendick for Colás in that sixth more so than anything with Maldonado. Lee has become the team’s No. 1 catcher, and credits Maldonado for helping him develop, but Grifol certainly is not turning away from what he considers Maldonado’s valuable presence.

“I like what he does behind the plate and I value that, tremendously. Some people don’t. I do,” Grifol said. “I'm not just going to go through this every single day, whatever the at-bat is, whether it be second inning, fourth inning, I believe in what he does defensively."

“You guys have seen it,” Maldonado said. “It only takes one pitch. It only takes one call from somebody. Could be a blooper, a broken bat, a hit-by-pitch or something. I feel like yesterday I got a good walk and hit a couple of balls hard. Just stay positive.”