Yoán Moncada late at the plate, ready in the field

Yoan Moncada painting
Yoan Moncada (Carl Skanberg)

A borderline pitch might’ve changed the way we regarded Yoán Moncada’s training camp debut against the Cubs on Monday, at least as it shows up in the box score.

Yu Darvish probably should have sent Moncada back to the dugout with a backwards K in his first at-bat with this 1-2 slider that Statcast showed clipping the bottom of the zone.

Home plate umpire Mark Carlson saw it otherwise, and when Darvish hung a breaking pitch on 2-2, Moncada lined it to center for an RBI single.

That gave Moncada a triumph to mark in the box score, and his only one on the night. He got jammed by Darvish on an inner-half fastball for an 83-mph lineout to second, then failed to take advantage of a 2-0 count against James Norwood in his final trip. He was late on a middle-middle fastball at 96, swung over a good 2-1 changeup, then got locked up on a perfect tailing fastball at the knees.

If those pitches are indeed 50-50 calls, then the game corrected itself, as Paul Konerko attests. The balance allowed Moncada to go 1-for-3 with a strikeout, rather than 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, although the butterfly effect suggests says the first K would have altered future events beyond the ability to predict them. If so, Eloy Jiménez probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance to hit his majestic slam, so we’re better off leaving things be.

Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo that his timing “isn’t quite there yet,” which is understandable considering he missed the intrasquad ramp-up and opened by facing pitchers who feel no remorse about making him look bad. He wasn’t quite getting around on fastballs, which left him in-between on the better non-fastballs. His next few games are all going to be about literally getting up to speed.

* * * * * * * * *

Moncada showed no such rust in the field. After watching the likes of Yermín Mercedes, Andrew Vaughn and even Cheslor Cuthbert stumble around the hot corner over the past week, it was refreshing to see Moncada making good reads and finding balance for his throws from all positions.

The Cubs threw three different tests at him with three hitters with above-average speed. In the first, Javier Báez made Moncada range to his left and throw on the run. No problem.

In the third, Albert Almora Jr. tried shooting a grounder past Moncada, who was playing a step in. Moncada hit the ground and righted himself in rhythm to make an on-target throw.

And Moncada capped off his night by making a backhand pick, spin and long throw to retire Kris Bryant. The White Sox actually made a proper highlight out of this one.

If I had to choose between Moncada’s hitting or defense behind ahead of the other, I’d choose the glove, if only because a Moncada who’s comfortable throwing his body around is a Moncada who is healthy enough to get subsequent reps at the plate. Assuming he shows no ill effects from the strain over the coming days, it looks like he’s on target for an Opening Day start. Rick Renteria just cautioned that he intends to give Moncada more off days than usual early on.

“Not having been in the time that everyone else has, to expect him to go 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 days in a row, I don’t think it’s prudent,” Renteria said. “I don’t think it’s wise.”

(Yoán Moncada portrait by Carl Skanberg)

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Off topic but this is pretty cool: Fangraphs created a leaderboard for best and worst 60 game spans since 1974. For instance, 26 guys have hit .400 or better. The HR record is 33, held by Giancarlo Stanton and Mark McGwire



That last quote from Renteria is why they keep Cuthbert on the roster until Madrigal is “ready”.

karkovice squad

Sox really would’ve benefited from retaining Yolmer or acquiring a cromulent replacement. They can’t really absorb concurrent scratches except at C/1B/DH.

karkovice squad

Mazara to the IL. Hope he’s OK.