The White Sox have added a veteran to their 2017 catching mix as Geovany Soto agreed to return on a minor league deal on Thursday, a baseball source said.
Soto — who hit .269/.321/.487 with four home runs in 86 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Angels last season — previously played in 78 games for the White Sox in 2015.
With the organization’s lack of experienced options behind the plate, the veteran catcher, an ex-Cub and the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, has a good chance to make the club’s Opening Day roster.
Soto hit .219/.301/.406 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 210 plate appearances for the 2015 club when he split playing time with Tyler Flowers. Both catchers were allowed to depart after that season, and the White Sox signed free agents Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila with the hope they’d offer the team more offensive production.
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The team’s catchers both struggled in 2016, and Navarro was traded to Toronto in late August while injuries limited Avila to 57 games. Avila’s disabled list trips opened up playing time for rookie Omar Narvaez, who caught 34 games and showed promise.
Avila returned to the Detroit Tigers on a one-year contract last month, leaving Narvaez and Kevan Smith, who caught seven games last season, as the only catchers with big league experience on the 40-man roster.
While the White Sox have identified 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins as their catcher of the future, he’s likely to spend all of 2017 in the minors. With the team now in a rebuild, the plan is to give Collins every chance to improve his catching skills. The 2016 Johnny Bench Award winner spent most of the 2016 Arizona Fall League catching bullpen sessions in an attempt to improve behind the plate. He’s expected to start the season at Single-A Winston-Salem.
The Score's Bruce Levine first reported that Soto signed with the White Sox.
Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut will be pushed back a day.
Originally scheduled to start Monday, Giolito will make his team debut on Tuesday now, manager Rick Renteria said on Saturday. Giolito will take Reynaldo Lopez's place in the rotation as he recovers from a strained back.
The White Sox also made some other pitching rotation changes.
Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer will be the two starters for Monday's doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. Renteria said that Fulmer — who will be making his season debut — will serve as the 26th man and then head back to Triple-A Charlotte.
In 24 starts this season with the Knights, the 23-year-old prospect is 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 95 strikeouts.
After leaving Thursday's game with soreness, the White Sox are taking a cautious approach with pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez.
The White Sox announced on Saturday they have placed Lopez on the 10-day disabled list with a strained back and purchased the contract of pitcher Danny Farquhar from Triple-A Charlotte.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper noticed Lopez losing both his velocity and command in the fourth inning of his start against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night which prompted a mound visit from manager Rick Renteria and head athletic trainer Herm Schneider. After initially walking back toward the dugout, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu signaled for Renteria and Schneider to return. Lopez was pulled from the game just moments later.
Lopez is 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in two starts with the White Sox after getting promoted to the majors on Aug. 11.
Farquhar, 30, signed with the White Sox in July after he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays.
In eight games with Triple-A Charlotte, Farquhar had a 3.00 ERA with a 0.880 WHIP and 12 strikeouts.
The veteran reliever has played in parts of six MLB seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays (2011), Seattle Mariners (2013-15) and Rays (2016-17). Farquhar has a career record of 7-14 with 18 saves and a 3.85 ERA in 230 games.
The White Sox 40-man roster is now at 36 after Saturday's move.