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Moncada sets goal to reduce strikeouts

White Sox second baseman not letting stat get him down
MLB.com @scottmerkin

SEATTLE -- Yoan Moncada entered Saturday's contest at Safeco Field with 132 strikeouts, tied with Aaron Judge for the second-highest amount in the Majors this season.

But at 150 games into his big league career, and 143 with the White Sox, the switch-hitting second baseman is not letting that particular statistic weigh upon him.

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SEATTLE -- Yoan Moncada entered Saturday's contest at Safeco Field with 132 strikeouts, tied with Aaron Judge for the second-highest amount in the Majors this season.

But at 150 games into his big league career, and 143 with the White Sox, the switch-hitting second baseman is not letting that particular statistic weigh upon him.

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"Right now it's not in my mind," Moncada told MLB.com through interpreter Billy Russo. "I know that that's something I need to improve. But right now, for me, it doesn't matter if I strike out 200 times or 300 times.

"What's most important is to keep moving forward in my development process. It's something on my wish list for next year to improve, but what I want to do is just to finish this season strong and improve in all the aspects of my game. Of course, improving in that area is important. Right now I'm not concerned about that."

At the age of 23, Moncada already has proved to have a strong working knowledge of the strike zone, even with his elevated strikeout total. He worked the count full in all four trips to the plate Friday, as an example, striking out twice and walking twice.

The two strikeouts hit on an all too familiar issue for Moncada, in that many of the borderline two-strike pitches have not gone his way in '18. The White Sox want Moncada to be aggressive in his at-bats, but not aggressive in terms of jeopardizing his overall approach and chasing out of the zone.

"If he stays aggressive with pitches in the zone, that's where he's having his most success," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "He has a really good eye. He tends to lay off pitches out of the zone.

"He tends not to try to expand. There's a difference between expanding half a ball to three or four, which is completely different. As long as he maintains an aggressive approach within the strike zone, which he has been increasing, he has a chance of having really good success obviously."

Mike Trout and Kris Bryant serve as prime examples of players with big strikeout totals at some point in their career, but also great success to the point of being award winners. They also have worked over the years to reduce that strikeout portion of their game.

It's a change Moncada has in mind as he moves into 2019.

"Keep working. Keep gaining experience and recognizing pitches. Identify the strike zone better," said Moncada of his ideas for change. "I need to have confidence in my approach and things that you are doing. Most importantly it's just a matter of being able to recognize better the strike zone and make adjustments.

"My ultimate goal is to be an All-Star, and in order to be an All-Star, you need to keep learning and keep improving, and like I said before, that's an aspect of my game I know I need to improve. I think that I can do it next year."

Jones suffers a setback

Nate Jones suffered a setback during his injury rehab work earlier this week with Triple-A Charlotte and will be sidelined for the next two weeks. Jones has been on the disabled list since June 13 with a right pronator strain.

"We will reassess where he's at there. We do believe and still expect he'll be available to us before the season is out," Renteria said. "No throwing right now. Just quieting it down."

Jones, who has thrown just 38 games over the last two injury-plagued seasons, was set to throw his third live batting-practice session with the Knights over the All-Star break. If all went well there, Jones would have stayed with Charlotte to begin his injury rehab assignment.

"We'll just reassess it, but right now he's down," Renteria said. "We fully expect he'll be back."

Shields getting close to personal history

A broad smile crossed James Shields' face when he was reminded postgame Friday of making his 395th career start.

"I'm getting close to 400," Shields said.

Reaching 400 starts would mean something special to the right-hander, who has averaged 30 starts per season in his big league career.

"It means a lot," Shields said. "My goal coming into my career was to post every five days, and I've done a pretty good job of that over my career. I've been very lucky to stay as healthy as I have been my whole career. We'll keep going and grinding this thing out."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Yoan Moncada