Notes: Catching surplus; Madrigal's return?

March 4th, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The toughest part of the final White Sox Opening Day roster decisions might not be whether they keep a third catcher, but which young catcher do they keep.

“It's a very deep catching situation,” said manager Tony La Russa during a Wednesday Zoom press conference. “One of the deepest I've seen.”

Taking a third catcher would allow starting backstop to work in at designated hitter at times, but working against the third catcher is leaving Leury García as the only utility infielder assuming Andrew Vaughn breaks camp at designated hitter. But , and are making this decision an interesting one for the front office, La Russa and his staff.

Collins homered and had two hits as the DH in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Royals. Mercedes had two hits, two RBIs and threw out Michael A. Taylor trying to steal second. Mercedes worked at his physical conditioning to get ready for Spring Training, and believes he’s ready for regular big league work behind the plate.

“Competition is good right now,” Mercedes said. “Just working hard here with the coaches. They are giving their support for everybody here. Just believe in everybody and give them the chance. Doing the best we can do. We are feeling good with the coaches and Tony.”

Collins, the team’s top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, doesn’t feel extra stress competing for a roster spot.

“I’ve dealt with it the last couple of years competing for a job to be in the big leagues,” Collins said. “It’s good to create a competitive atmosphere on any team. We’re trying our hardest out there and all trying to make each other better. Being competitive brings out the best in us.”

No rollover
La Russa made his first mid-inning pitching change during his second stint as White Sox manager by removing Tyler Johnson with the bases loaded and two outs in the second. La Russa chose to bring in Jacob Lindgren instead of just rolling over the inning, something he promised to avoid doing in respect to the fans after the White Sox rolled over two innings during Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

That decision was discussed with general manager Rick Hahn and assistant general manager/player development Chris Getz when La Russa returned to the White Sox complex Tuesday.

“We started looking at the board,” La Russa said. “We're taking a couple extra arms today.”

Lindgren walked in two runs after replacing Johnson and then a Mercedes throwing error tied the game. The White Sox issued six straight walks after two were out.

Madrigal’s first start arriving soon
Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who had October surgery to correct a left shoulder separation suffered during the 2020 season, will get his first Cactus League start on Monday, per La Russa.

Madrigal told in January how he expected to be near 100 percent at the start of camp and would be ready to go when the season began on April 1. The 23-year-old and No. 3 White Sox prospect hit .340 over 109 plate appearances last season.

“He's getting better every day,” La Russa said. “And he was real good to start.”

Third to first
• The White Sox continue to be careful with Grandal after he twisted his right knee last Wednesday during running drills. Grandal has not played since that injury, and La Russa did not have a return date yet for him.

“Grandal is getting extra care and then going very carefully because it's early in the camp,” La Russa said. “But he's making progress every day.”

• La Russa talked personally Wednesday to center fielder Adam Engel, who was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup with mild inflammation in his right ankle and said, “he feels much improved.” Engel could still be sidelined for another day or two.

• There was no update provided on a possible alternate site for the ’21 White Sox, although the team put a great deal of work into the Schaumburg, Ill., facility to use it in that capacity last year. But La Russa said the communication with the front office has been great on all matters such as this one.

“It can't be better,” La Russa said. “I think Rick is planning a meeting the first of next week to review the roster. We just talked this morning with [assistant general manager] Jeremy [Haber] and Rick about progress, where certain guys are. Can't be better as far as talking back and forth.”

He said it
“If the inning really gets away from us, I know I'm basically humorless, but the staff decided that our short reliever would be Frankie Menechino.” — La Russa, picking the White Sox hitting coach as his last pitching choice to avoid a rollover inning