GLENDALE, Ariz. — Adrian Nieto hopes he never has to worry about his car being low on fuel again.
That’s one of the first things the White Sox rookie said Wednesday crossed his mind when he thought about how his life could change after he learned he’s headed for the majors. Nieto is still in shock after manager Robin Ventura informed him Sunday he would make the opening day roster. A Rule 5 draft pick, Nieto is attempting to make the leap from Single-A to the major leagues.
“The little blinker on the gas tank isn’t empty anymore I hope,” Nieto said. “(My mom) always tells me go put gas in and I’m like, ‘Mom, I have $25 I’m trying to stretch this out.’ I thought about that. It’s crazy, man. It’s crazy.”
As extreme as it may seem to ask a catcher to skip the upper levels of minor-league baseball, the White Sox are willing to take the risk.
As a Rule 5, Nieto must remain on the team’s active 25-man roster — unless he’s injured — all season or be placed on waivers and then offered back to his previous club, the Washington Nationals.
But the White Sox have been impressed with how Nieto has handled the pitching staff, the enthusiasm he brings in the clubhouse, to the dugout and on the field and how much better his bat has been than previously believed.
Both Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn as well as the team’s pitchers have been effusive in their praise of Nieto this spring. All say the same thing — Nieto hasn’t been scared this spring.
He attributes it to playing in the World Baseball Classic last spring and in the Arizona Fall League in October.
“It’s baseball,” Nieto said. “It’s just that guys are more consistent up here. People have more information on you. That’s the biggest difference.”
Nieto got his life-changing information from Ventura on Sunday. Then on Monday his agent tweeted out the news that Nieto had made the club. He’s had conversations or exchanged texts with friends and family since but it still hasn’t quite set in.
“It still hasn’t hit me to tell you the truth,” Nieto said. “I still have a couple of games left so I have to go out there and finish strong. It was definitely what I wanted to hear at the end of camp. It’s one goal I accomplished. I have to continue. I’m blessed to be one of the 60 guys to have a catching spot in the big leagues.”