Second 'was cool' in Classic, but Anderson's focus is short

White Sox infielder has blast playing new position for Team USA, draws praise from Trout

March 24th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yes,  started at second base for Team USA during five of his six games played in the World Baseball Classic.

No, don’t think the White Sox or Anderson have any thoughts of making that move even temporarily during the upcoming Major League season.

“[Elvis] Andrus is our second baseman,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

“Yeah, it was cool,” said a smiling Anderson. “But don’t get [any] ideas.”

Anderson has played 766 games at shortstop during his Major League career in parts of seven seasons. He was the American League’s starter at that position during the 2022 All-Star Game.

When Anderson is healthy and at the top of his game, he’s one of the top players at his position. With a .318 average, .820 OPS, 51 home runs and 53 stolen bases since the start of 2019, Anderson has been at the top of his game for quite some time.

There’s no reason to move Anderson from shortstop, a position he fought to keep and worked intently to refine since he was selected 17th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft. His switch to second, with Trea Turner at shortstop for Team USA, showed the importance of the Classic competition to the players involved.

“Definitely dope. It was a lot of energy,” Anderson said. “The atmosphere was crazy, the energy was crazy, definitely a cool experience.

“I kind of knew going into it that [USA manager Mark DeRosa] wanted me to play,” Anderson said on playing second. “At first, I wasn’t open to it, but I wanted my bat to be in the lineup so I wanted to play. Moving over to second, it wasn’t easy, but I was kind of familiar going over in the shift. So it definitely worked out.”

Anderson, Lance Lynn, Kendall Graveman and Yoán Moncada returned to Camelback Ranch on Thursday, meaning the White Sox had their full roster back in camp. Luis Robert Jr., who played for Cuba with Moncada, started in center field and hit second against the Giants, while Graveman is slated to pitch Friday against the A’s in Mesa, while Lynn takes the mound on Saturday night against the Reds.

Moncada felt good enough to play Thursday, brushing off any concern about his bruised rib suffered during a collision with Cuban left fielder Roel Santos in the semifinal loss to Team USA. Health is a crucial factor for Moncada, who was named to the All-Classic team via his dominant performance for Cuba.

“If I’m able to stay healthy, I know I’m going to get results,” Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo. “It’s just that. My focus is to keep my body fresh and stay healthy throughout the whole season. If I’m on the field, I know I can do good things. If I’m not, there’s nothing I can do. I need to stay healthy.

“Injuries definitely had an effect on my performance the last couple of years, but I can’t blame it all on the injuries. The past is the past. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing right now. Working really hard to stay healthy and perform.”

Wearing those four letters reading "C-U-B-A” on the front of his jersey meant a great deal to Moncada. The same can be said for Anderson with “U-S-A.”

Anderson thrives in a bright spotlight such as this one -- take a look at his walk-off home run against the Yankees in the 2021 Field of Dreams game or his 16-for-33 (.485) showing in the postseason as examples. USA teammates such as Mike Trout noticed that high-level energy emanating from Anderson

“For him to say that definitely means a lot. Obviously he’s been paying attention,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t be more thankful, especially coming from a dude like that.”

That effort from Anderson came as he was playing out of position. Now, the focus is back to shortstop, back to normal on the White Sox regular season.

“We’ll keep playing our time at short until we see what happens,” Anderson said. “Right now our main focus is getting back over at short, see where that leads me in the next few years. I’ll still be open to second, but once I’m done with short, we’ll see how it goes.”