CHICAGO -- Nick Madrigal returned to baseball activity Monday at Camelback Ranch, marking a significant step in the White Sox second baseman’s rehab work following October surgery on his left shoulder.
That baseball work wasn’t too extensive, with Madrigal taking ground balls for the first time and then taking slow dry hacks with a short bat to get a feel for the motion. But Madrigal remains optimistic for being close to 100% healthy by the projected start of Spring Training on Feb. 17 and fully ready to go by the projected 2021 White Sox Opening Day of April 1 in Anaheim.
“I do feel like I’ll be ready,” Madrigal told MLB.com during a phone interview from Arizona. “We are kind of planning on being ready before that, but it depends on how everything goes, especially when I start up baseball things and seeing if it’s stable, no setbacks at all. That’s a big possibility to be ready for Opening Day.
“It’s a slower pace. The recovery, you can’t really speed it up too much. That’s when problems start to come up. All the training staff over at the complex have a pretty straight schedule of everything, and every single day it’s getting better and better. Hopefully, once Spring Training comes around, I’ll be doing really good. I don’t know about 100%, but we are going to have to see how it goes.”
Madrigal suffered a separated left shoulder during an Aug. 4 contest in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on a slide after attempting to go first to third on Luis Robert’s third-inning single. The 23-year-old rookie, who was playing in just his fifth Major League contest at the time, was out of action until Aug. 29, but he hit .349 over his final 24 games to go with three postseason hits.
There was an immediate surgical option for Madrigal in August. But he never wanted to completely leave the team’s push for its first playoff appearance since 2008.
“So, I decided to play it out,” Madrigal said. “Then after the year, get it cleaned up right away.”
This ’20 debut for Madrigal featured seven strikeouts against four walks in 109 plate appearances along with a robust .340 batting average. Madrigal also had a .369 slugging percentage, with three doubles representing his only extra-base hits.
Those numbers were fairly commensurate with Madrigal’s Minor League statistics, on a much smaller scale. The White Sox top pick in the 2018 Draft (4th overall) had a mere 21 strikeouts over 628 at-bats to go with a .309 batting average and a .398 slugging percentage. Madrigal might never be a 20-homer or even a 15-homer yearly presence, but he stridently believes increased power will come with experience.
“Yeah, I do. I do,” Madrigal said. “[Last year] was a short sample size. It was only 100 at-bats. And baseball is one of those things where if you get hot, some guys hit one home run and then another one comes and doubles.
“I’m not really worried about it. I feel comfortable in my game. I know it’s going to come. I’m looking forward to playing a lot more games next year.”
Adapting to big league pitching became one of Madrigal’s biggest first-season accomplishments, in regard to facing both starters and relievers for the first time. He wants to get on base more and take advantage of his speed, as he produced 43 stolen bases over 163 Minor League games.
Defensively, Madrigal spoke of the constant shifting in the field being different from his previous baseball experience.
“In college, we didn’t do a whole lot of that. In the Minors, we didn’t do a whole lot of that,” Madrigal said. “When I came up, almost every single batter was shifted, so that was something new to me. That’s something I’m going to work on.”
Madrigal’s level of comfort should make a difference in his upcoming first full season. As he pointed out, the whole basic setup of getting to the stadium, what the stadium looks like and the team travel already have helped set up a routine.
“Everything is kind of going to slow down a little bit,” Madrigal said. “Last year I was learning on the fly and there’s a lot going on, especially with the year that we had. It wasn’t an easy one for anyone. I’m looking forward to next year. Hopefully feeling a little bit more relaxed.”
Madrigal’s current focus is 100% health, working Monday to Friday on his left shoulder since arriving in Arizona two weeks ago.