Three White Sox reintroduce themselves during first spring training game

Camelback Ranch, White Sox spring training home
(Ron Vesely/Chicago White Sox)

The last time we’d seen Jake Burger in a White Sox uniform in game action against another team, he didn’t make it down the first base line. He instead hit the ground, 25 feet or so in front of the bag, after suffering the first of two ruptured Achilles.

The lengthy rehab conspired with the COVID-19 pandemic to keep him out of standard professional competition for three years, and while he was able to climb out of dark places, lose scores of pounds, and get back into collegiate ball in order to demand a spot at the alternate training site in Schaumburg, we still hadn’t yet seen him in a standard professional baseball context.

Sunday’s Cactus League opener finally provided that setting, with Burger playing third base for the game’s entire six innings. In his first at-bat, he hit a lazy fly down the right field line. I didn’t track the flight of the ball. Instead, I watched Burger run toward first base and round the bag. I’m pleased to report that it was completely mundane.

Burger ended up going 0-for-3 with a flyout to deepish center and a strikeout in his other two trips to the plate, but the line score didn’t matter, and it’s not going to matter for quite some time. That he’s back playing baseball without issue is the big thing, and he sounds quite pleased in that regard.

“It was a special moment today,” said Burger during a postgame Zoom. “This is just another milestone in the comeback. It feels great to be out there with the guys and just playing baseball again. It was one of those things where it kind of told me that I belonged. Those injuries are well behind me and I’m back to playing baseball.”

* * * * * * * * *

Kade McClure also had a leg injury his past, a knee that he had surgically repaired in the middle of the 2018 season. He made a smooth recovery, rebounding to throw 122 innings with a 3.25 ERA across Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in 2019, but the strikeout and home run rates left a lot to be desired.

During prospect week, we’d heard that McClure found some extra velocity after ironing out his mechanics, which propelled him into the middle third of some top prospect lists. The cancellation of the minor league season kept him a secret, and to some extent he still is. Camelback Ranch is not equipped with pitch tracking equipment, so we didn’t get to see his improved velocity register on radar guns.

We did, however, get to see a couple of impressive breaking balls for swinging strikes by two credible MLB hitters. Here’s Keston Hiura striking out…

… and here’s Daniel Vogelbach being way out in front.

McClure did lose Travis Shaw to a walk after getting ahead 0-2, so he could’ve theoretically done better during his scoreless inning of work. But while the Brewers took a number of convincing swings during the 7-2 win, none of them occurred during McClure’s inning. It may be first-game-of-spring timing, but if McClure stands 6’7″ with more power on his pitches, it’s possible uncomfortable in-between hacks will be a frequent sighting.

* * * * * * * * *

Yoán Moncada’s line also suggests an unremarkable afternoon, as he went 0-for-3 with two groundouts and a flyout. The first groundout was a fielder’s choice, which gave him the opportunity to show people that his battery had fully recharged.

Presenting: A steal of second.

It’s not necessarily big news that Moncada stole second on Omar Narváez, because lots of people can run on Narváez. But Moncada didn’t run at all period, with zero stolen base attempts after 18 in 2018, and 13 in 2019. It was one of a few ways the aftereffects of COVID-19 manifested themselves in his stats. Exit velocity is the other main number to watch, but while none of his contact lit up Statcast, that requires some cooperation from the pitcher he’s facing. A better sprint speed only requires feeling good, and this might be his way of telling us.

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Chicago White Sox)

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Willardmarshall

Hate to ask but… how much might two achilles injuries predict a third?

Trooper Galactus

Most things one would do to lose 40 pounds put pressure on the Achilles tendon, so I’d say he’s probably been holding up rather well and it’s been put through considerable stress testing.

Rex Fermier

Wait a minute. I keep hearing that Camelback is a “State of the Art” sports complex and here you’re telling us that “Camelback Ranch is not equipped with pitch tracking equipment, so we didn’t get to see his improved velocity register on radar guns.” How can that be?

James

They’ve got it, it just ain’t public. There’s a White Sox employee in the press box on a laptop for every game, logging and filing the data on every pitch as it comes into the system.

jorgefabregas

The Angels announcer said Yermin Mercedes had had limited success in the big leagues. I guess one plate appearance (groundout) counts.

asinwreck

The one plate appearance gives him limited liability on defense.

itaita

And here is where i find out the game on MLB network is on a 50 minute tape delay.

Gus

ha

Gus

he also said that Moncada was moving over to third base this year. so….

my favorite part was after Robert roped one to the outfield they showed him rounding the bag and going back, so I assumed single, but he was already at second for a double.

Milky✌️

Nice work by Tayron Guerrero to get himself out of that one

lifelongjd

Jeez….those drafts from 2011 to 2017 aren’t looking too great. Besides Tim Anderson in ‘13, there ain’t too much to show. Here’s hoping Madrigal, Vaughn, and Crochet are the beginning of better drafts

Trooper Galactus

Kinda disrespectful to Bummer, Foster, Lambert, Mendick, and Engel. Sure, they messed up the top of the draft pretty bad those years, but they got some pretty good talent on the second and third days. To be sure, they do need to hit on their first and second round guys a lot more. They can’t afford to have more top-11 picks go bust.

HallofFrank

I mean, it’s not disrespectful, it’s just factually true. Those drafts (’15-’17 especially) weren’t great and there’s not much to show from them. That’s not the same as *nothing* to show, of course.

lifelongjd

Yeah, I’ll admit I only glanced at the first round, but if you only have 1 all-star position player, two relievers (albeit pretty good ones) a couple of part time players, and a fringe starter out of 7 years of drafting, that’s not a good haul. No disrespect to those players, much disrespect to the Scouting/Development staff.