White Sox welcome back fans, start of Spring Training

March 14th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. –-- Here are five takeaways from the start of 2022 White Sox Spring Training.

Fans celebrate baseball

The White Sox opened their back fields at Camelback Ranch to fans at 9 a.m. Arizona time, and while the fans had to wait 90 minutes for players to emerge, the group clearly was excited by the return of the American League Central champs following a 99-day lockout.

Tim Anderson drew a major round of applause as he walked down the pathway toward the Sunday workout, raising his hands in response to the recognition. Yermín Mercedes also drew loud attention from fans, stopping before the workout to sign autographs.

Manager Tony La Russa’s appearance also was greeted by fans’ support.

“When they’re happy, we’re happy,” said La Russa, who was one of the many people to sign autographs. “I just told them the key is to be happy in October. And they all nodded. It’s a different atmosphere, it’s fun. It seems like we should have done it sooner this spring."

Mr. Hendriks’ throwing neighborhood

Imagine being a resident of Tempe, Paradise Valley or the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix and seeing the game’s best closer throwing at a nearby park. That plan played out for Liam Hendriks, who moved with his wife and their pets to Arizona during the offseason, but he was unable to use the team’s facilities at Camelback Ranch.

So, he played catch with former big leaguer Marc Rzepczynski the entire time and Sean Nolin before he went over to Korea.

“I got some people saying, ‘You are throwing pretty well,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, not too bad,’” Hendriks said. “You get your friend groups out here so it’s easy to work on schedule. Now I’m happy to be at a place where I can come in every single day at the same time and do my work in that way, and move toward it.

“We never actually used baseball fields. It was always like Scottsdale Sports Complex, which is more of a soccer pitch. But we got kicked off that a couple of times because of the PGA coming through, they use that as parking. There are places all over the place and luckily we were able to make it work.”

Hendriks has thrown a bunch of live batting practice sessions and he will be ready to throw early on in Cactus League action. He expects his teammates to be in the same spot.

“If you have been working all offseason to get to a point of Spring Training, you should be ready to go three weeks ago,” Hendriks said. “If you are not ready right now, it’s on you.”

Words of wisdom

La Russa will address the team on Tuesday, with a handful of players still arriving on Monday.

“Today was, ‘How are you?' ‘Nice to see you,’ and I did tell them that pitching and defense, ever since the game was played, the better we pitch and defend, the fewer runs we have to score,” La Russa said. “So that starts here.”

Grandal’s direct approach

Catcher Yasmani Grandal didn’t provide a detailed explanation when asked what he took from the 2021 AL Division Series loss to the Astros in four games.

“I didn't take anything from it other than the fact that we lost,” Grandal said. “I've been going at this for seven years now, it's kind of the same story, always seem to be falling short. I'm still ring-hunting. Hopefully it comes in a White Sox uniform.

“If you're not trying to learn from your mistakes, then it's the wrong way to go about it. Only time will tell, and hopefully this year it's a different story.”

Grandal has been to the playoffs in every season since 2015, and he played in World Series with the Dodgers in 2017 and '18. Similar postseason experience helped the Astros take down the White Sox last season.

“Obviously, when you've been in it for a while, you've gone all the way and you've been in those types of situations, the stage is not too big for you,” Grandal said. “You've been there before, you've done it, you know what to do.

“For us, having gone to the postseason the year before, it was completely different. I think they got a sense and a taste of what it is to be in the postseason with fans. ... It was a step forward, and hopefully we continue on the trail.”

Busy front office

Right-hander Vince Velasquez is reportedly joining the White Sox via a free-agent deal, pending a physical. The club did not comment on the report.

Velasquez would be the third move in two days for the White Sox, joining right-handed reliever Joe Kelly and second baseman Josh Harrison, who agreed to deals on Saturday, according to sources.

“Well, all I know is that ever since the bell rang, there hadn't been one time that I reached out direct to [general manager] Rick [Hahn] or [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams], that I got through right away,” La Russa said on Saturday before the moves. “They took the message and called me back.”