In WBC, Tim Anderson gets first experience at second base for best reasons

Mar 12, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Team USA infielder Tim Anderson (7) celebrates after three strikes against Team Mexico at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Anderson (Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports)

Back when the White Sox acquired Elvis Andrus the first time, there was concern over who would play shortstop when Tim Anderson returned. It wasn’t a problem when the Sox picked up Andrus since Anderson’s injury is what necessitated the move, and it ended up never being a problem because the Sox were well out of the division by the time Anderson could’ve returned, and since I didn’t count on the Sox beating the odds on an injury recovery in 2022, it’s a question I never really indulged.

But it was still an interesting question, in the sense that neither Anderson nor Andrus had played anywhere but shortstop over the lengthy and lengthier careers. The answer was presumably Anderson because the Sox don’t remove their fixtures, but Anderson said this spring that he wouldn’t have slammed the door on the idea of moving over.

‘‘He’s been around, knows what’s going to happen,’’ Anderson told the Sun-Times this week. ‘‘Younger guys are always open to a guy like that; even I am interested. I want to see what you have seen that I haven’t seen yet. He can say whatever he has to say, and that’s cool. And if he wants to play short, that’s cool. I’ll play second, too.’’

‘‘I don’t really want to play second, but that’s what type of teammate I am,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘I don’t care. I want to win.’’

Now both have been seen at second base. Andrus is starting there for the White Sox in spring training because that’s where he’s expected to play. He called it weird, but he’s looked like any other second baseman in the brief amount of time we’ve seen him this spring, which is to say he’s looked lonely. The right side of the infield isn’t as crowded as it used to be.

But we also got to see Anderson at second base for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Monday, and it’s the kind of move that’s good for everybody. It’s good for Anderson to get a dose of playing elsewhere just to understand the options, and here’s a case where moving a guy off shortstop is a compliment, not an insult. There’s the matter that Trea Turner has right of first refusal at short, but Team USA manager Mark DeRosa wanted to see what Anderson looked like at second base instead of Plan A Jeff McNeil, even though McNeil is a batting champ in his own right, and even though Anderson has never played there.

DeRosa could’ve just said he wanted to play the platoon matchup, but McNeil wouldn’t have been worth nearly 6 WAR last year if he had any real platoon concerns, especially starting against a 19-year-old who hasn’t pitched above A-ball.

Instead, DeRosa went further.

“When you play in the W.B.C., it’s a feeling-out process at first,” DeRosa said. “I think he wanted to let some people know how good he was — in that dugout, in that clubhouse, the coaching staff, on down the line. He has really caught a lot of people’s eyes on this team.”

Anderson reinforced the idea by going 2-for-3. He contributed a walk of all things and a run to Team USA’s nine-run first, then an RBI triple and a run in the second.

As for his play at second, outside of stumble that didn’t affect him from going 4-for-4 on balls that got to his glove, he looked ordinary, even on an opposite-field grounder that got past him on a dive in the seventh and final inning.

It was good enough to free up everybody to remain focused on his offense. He’s 4-for-7 after two games, and he’s added a stolen base as well. His fine performances in victory, but even more so in Team USA’s flat loss to Mexico on Sunday, have warranted stories from Tyler Kepner in the New York Times, and Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic.

Anderson has thrived on just about every big stage he’s seen, whether it’s .485 average in 33 postseason plate appearances or the walk-off homer in the Field of Dreams Game that’s still replayed every other commercial break on MLB.TV. His problem has been getting to those big stages, and he can’t leave himself out of the blame game due to missing a third of the schedule over the last four years due to injuries. This is the Anderson everybody wants after such a disappointment, and after his own counterproductive comments wanting everybody in Chicago to get behind the 2023 Sox sight unseen. If Anderson and other Sox can make the first sights look like this, it won’t take many real games to rekindle interest.

In the interim, this Anderson starts by leaving no question about who’s playing shortstop for the White Sox. Whatever experience he gains at second in the interim will be nice in case the Sox have to rifle through their emergency plans. If Andrus is at the height of his powers while Anderson’s dealing with another leg injury that saps his abilities to make strong throws, sure, flip the infield. Mapping it out beyond that strikes me as another one of those wastes of time. They need him around and balling in order to return to any big stages, and his WBC play shows he understands the assignment.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Trooper Galactus

I don’t care which of Andrus or Anderson plays second, I just want them both in the lineup for 130+ games, unless Lenyn Sosa or Jose Rodriguez would like to force the issue.

funkerdan

Hopefully Montgomery forces an issue too at some point within the next 365 days

Trooper Galactus

There’s at least two or three guys ahead of Montgomery who I’m hoping can force the issue before the White Sox resort to rushing him up the system.

Augusto Barojas

I hope that Tim, Eloy, and Robert force some issues and play 130 games each, something only Tim has ever done, most recently being in 2018. Their fragility as a group has been incredible, really. They need to be done with that, it’s now or never.

Trooper Galactus

IF Tim, Eloy, Robert, Vaughn, Moncada, and Benintendi can play 130+ games each.

IF Cease, Giolito, Lynn, and Kopech can each make 30+ starts.

Sure, I’ll buy into that team breezing to a division title. I also wouldn’t bet on it happening.

calcetinesblancos

Not really shocking; Tim clearly wants to win, and it’s hard for me to believe he would be against any move that made the Sox better.

Nellie Fox

Anderson playing 2nd base? Who would have thunk it?

Joliet Orange Sox

If the Sox acquire an elite shortstop, I think everyone would favor moving Anderson to 2B and benching Andrus. That situation is somewhat analogous to what happened in the WBC. It seems very unlikely to happen.

Augusto Barojas

The Dominican Republic features a team with Machado, Devers, Soto, JRod, Eloy, Teoscar, Ketel Marte, Jeremy Pena. Tonight they face… team Israel! With Joc Pederson, and… nobody else! I find that matchup quite comical. I wonder who is gonna wind up winning that one. 10-0 currently.

RayHerbert

Team Israel surprised in the last WBC.

Sounds like a David vs Goliath matchup.

clifford

Watched the Sox game today against the Oaklands. All by himself Billy Hamilton tied the game with his speed and mostly won the game with his speed. MLB has basically changed the game to benefit a player exactly like Billy Hamilton. Sox need him! If the Sox release him, two things will happen. 1. Cleveland or Minnesota will pick him up. 2. I will be soooo pist off….

vince

Raised an eyebrow at this line from the linked The Athletic article

He told Anderson, “I need the bat flips,” words the shortstop never heard from any of his previous managers.

Trooper Galactus

Just don’t pimp a home run on a 3-0 count against a position player pitching in a blowout game. That’s against the rules.

upnorthsox

Wouldn’t have happened….if he threw a fastball.

knoxfire30

Imagine all the stud free agent shortstops we could of whiffed on if only TA agreed to play 2nd

Augusto Barojas

Yeah, the Sox would have only fallen short by like 200K for Turner or Xander! But they could have signed their family and friends on the cheap to make it look like a good effort.

upnorthsox

200k? Per day? Per game?