White Sox cut six; Escobar wins bench spot

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White Sox cut six; Escobar wins bench spot

The White Sox reassigned Dan Johnson, Dallas McPherson, Jim Gallagher and Jordan Danks to minor-league camp Tuesday, meaning Eduardo Escobar appears to have won the battle for the final spot on the White Sox bench.

In 17 games this spring, Escobar has hit .471 with no walks, one strikeout and one home run. His defensive versatility also was a likely factor in his triumph, as Escobar can play second, short and third base pretty well.

How Robin Ventura uses Brent Lillibridge in relation to Escobar will be interesting -- Lillibridge has played all over the field this spring, showing signs of improvement, but still a few flaws, in the infield. Lillibridge is the superior hitter to Escobar, no matter what the latter's spring stats may show, but Escobar has the superior glove.

It would make sense for Escobar to be a late-game pinch-runner for, say, Paul Konerko, but he doesn't have experience playing first. Lillibridge, however, has played some first base, so he'd make more sense if the Sox need a pair of legs in the eighth or ninth innings. The same goes for Dayan Viciedo, as Lillibridge has experience in left field. Perhaps the majority of Escobar's pinch-running opportunities will come for Adam Dunn.

While awarding jobs based on spring stats is dangerous, the Sox probably figured all along either Escobar or Ozzie Martinez was the best fit for their bench so long as they didn't look overmatched in March. Martinez was overmatched and was cut pretty early into the process, but Escobar looked far from it. And as a result, he'll make the Opening Day roster.

There does exist a scenario -- albeit, an unlikely one that doesn't involve injury -- in which Escobar doesn't make the Opening Day roster. Given the versatility of Lillibridge, the lack of separation between a few bullpen candidates could lead the White Sox to open the season with eight relievers and only three bench reserves.

But history has shown that carrying an eighth reliever usually doesn't do much, since that pitcher rarely enters games. It's better to have the four-man bench, of which Escobar would be the fourth member.

Josh Phegley and Tyler Saladino were the other two players reassigned to minor-league camp Tuesday.

Yoan Moncada 'relieved' to get first White Sox hit out of way

Yoan Moncada 'relieved' to get first White Sox hit out of way

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Yoan Moncada can’t complain much about his first hit with the White Sox.

Given all the elements, it rates about a 9 1/ 2 out of 10. Only a homer would have been better.

Baseball’s top prospect continues to look comfortable at the plate and in the field. Two days after he made his team debut, Moncada earned his first hit when he ripped a two-out, bases-loaded triple early in Friday night’s 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Moncada finished 1-for-4 with four RBIs.

“Once I got that first hit, I felt relieved,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “First, because it was the first one. And second because of the situation. It was a three RBIs triple. It was a very big moment of the game. I think that from now on I’m going to feel more relaxed and comfortable.”

Moncada has put together a series of good plate appearances in his first two games. He’s looked at ease while in the box and hasn’t panicked even when he gets behind in the count. Moncada said he felt even more comfortable when he stepped in to face Royals starter Ian Kennedy in the third inning. Not only was it his second time facing Kennedy, but Moncada sat in the on-deck circle as Matt Davidson drew a 10-pitch walk to load the bases with two outs.

Hitting left-handed, Moncada fell behind 0-2 in the count but Kennedy hung a 78-mph knuckle curve and the rookie lined it deep into the left-center field gap to clear the bases. Moncada not only showed his power, he also showed off his wheels: his 11.24 seconds from home to third was the fastest time by a White Sox player this season, according to MLB Statcast.

“He's seeing the ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He seems pretty calm, composed out there. It's just a couple of days, but in terms of how he's carrying himself, his body language, he seems to be transitioning pretty well up to this point, first couple of days.”

Moncada said Friday was much calmer than his Wednesday debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he drew a walk and went 0-for-2. The switch-hitting second baseman had an RBI groundout in his first at-bat Friday to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Then he stood in and tracked Kennedy with Davidson at the plate.

All in all, Moncada’s happy with how he’s executed his plan at the plate thus far. He said he choked up on the 0-2 pitch and put a good swing on it.

“That at-bat gave me more time to see in real life his pitches,” Moncada said. “I’ve been feeling very comfortable. In Chicago, that first game, it was a little bit nervous. But overall I feel very comfortable hitting and with my defense.”

Is it time for the White Sox to call up Reynaldo Lopez?

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USA TODAY

Is it time for the White Sox to call up Reynaldo Lopez?

With Yoan Moncada now with the White Sox and making an early impact, White Sox fans may be wondering which highly-touted prospect is next to join the big league roster.

Reynaldo Lopez is certainly making a strong case for himself in Triple-A Charlotte. Lopez, one of the pitchers the Sox received from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade, gave up one run in six innings for the Knights on Friday night. That was the latest in a string of five strong starts for the 23-year-old.

In Friday's 2-1 loss against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, Lopez struck out six and allowed just two hits and one walk. That's five straight starts for Lopez in which he has allowed two or fewer runs while pitching six or more innings.

Here's his last five starts:

June 29 vs. Columbus: 6 2/3 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts, 1 walk, 6 hits

July 4 at Durham: 6 innings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 5 hits

July 9 at Louisville: 6 innings, 2 runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 7 hits

July 16 vs. Gwinnett: 7 innings, 1 run, 12 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 hist

Tonight at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 6 innings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits

Loepz has a 3.65 ERA on the season with 107 strikeouts in 106 innings against 40 walks and 90 hits. In a short stint in the majors last season, Lopez had a 4.91 ERA in 44 innings in six starts and five relief appearances for the Nationals.

Does Guaranteed Rate Field await the Dominican right-hander?