PEORIA, Ariz. -- The White Sox will take Rule 5 draft pick Adrian Nieto with them when they break camp for Chicago, a baseball source confirmed on Monday.
With Tyler Flowers already anointed the starting catcher, the switch-hitting Nieto was battling last year’s backup Hector Gimenez for the No. 2 spot on the team’s opening day roster. Nieto -- who was drafted in December from the Washington Nationals for $50,000 -- must remain on the White Sox active roster all season.
Nieto’s agent, Joshua Kusnick, tweeted that his client has made the club out of spring training. On Sunday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said he has been impressed with how Nieto, who hasn’t played above Single-A, has held up in camp this spring.
“We’ve been really pleased with him,” Hahn said. “The pitchers enjoy throwing to him. We’ve had conversations with each of the starters and most of the relievers about their comfort level with each of the catchers and their reviews have been good. He’s shown us a little bit more with his right-handed swing than we anticipated. We thought the left-handed swing was going to be a little bit better.
He’s hung in there well and worked the count. He’s battled. He’s an interesting kid and we are glad we have him.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Sunday that Flowers would get the bulk of the duties behind the plate. But even so, the backup catcher would get a fair amount of opportunities.
Asked what he wants from his catcher, Ventura offered this: “It’s handling a staff. It’s how he goes about what he does behind the plate. It’s not an easy job, you have to have the right frame of mind and mindset when you’re back there that you’re getting a guy through a game and they have to have confidence in you that you’re capable of it. There’s more to it than catching and throwing.”
Hahn and the White Sox know they have a challenge ahead of them. But Nieto won’t be the first to make the leap from Single-A to the majors. Current Nationals catcher Jesus Flores had never played above Single-A when Washington drafted him in the Rule 5 out of the New York Mets farm system in 2006.
“To take a kid out of the Carolina League and put him in the big leagues as a backup catcher hasn’t happened a lot,” Hahn said. “But that doesn’t mean that he can’t do it.”
Per Rule 5, short of trips to the disabled list, Nieto has to remain on the White Sox active roster all season. If he does not, Nieto must be placed on waivers. If no teams claim him, Nieto would then be offered back to the Nationals for $25,000.
Hahn believes the White Sox won’t be able to retain Nieto unless they keep him on the active roster.
“My guess is it won’t be the easiest trade we ever made,” Hahn said Sunday.