Powell: Three Takeaways From White Sox Spring Training
By Kevin Powell
GLENDALE, Ariz. – We’re two weeks into spring training, so I’m not about to break down how specific players have performed in drills, batting practice, etc. But I can give you a good sense of the attitude of the clubhouse and the relationships that are being built at Camelback Ranch.
Here are a few takeaways from the early going of Sox camp.
SOX PLAYERS BUYING INTO RICKY RENTERIA
It’s a young core trying to make it in the majors. That’s why it’s not all that surprising to hear the Sox rookies and prospects speaking highly of manager Rick Renteria. But at the same time, it really does feel genuine when you hear the type of support he gets from his players.
“We recognize it is a process,” top pitching prospect Michael Kopech said. “We’re really excited. And a lot of that has to do with the camaraderie in here, I’ve talked about that a lot, and that’s something Rick has instilled in us.”
Shortstop Tim Anderson had this to say: “He keeps us loose. You never know what he’s gonna do or say. He’s definitely the right guy to lead the pack.”
Pitcher Carson Fulmer added: “He understands. And is constantly telling us how important the clubhouse atmosphere – a good positive clubhouse atmosphere – is for a championship ball club. As an organization, we want to do things right.”
It’s about what you’d expect from a young group of ballplayers. But they’re saying the right things, and carrying themselves the right way. And it really does sound like they’re buying into Renteria’s overall message.
Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer are locker mates in one corner of the clubhouse. The Cubans – Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada – have the first three lockers just to the left of the clubhouse entrance. Catcher Zack Collins is next to Michael Kopech, who is next to fellow highly-touted pitching prospect Alec Hansen. That’s a very tall region of the clubhouse.
The middle of one section is Jake Burger, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease, among others.
“Everybody’s pretty tight,” 2017 first-round pick Burger said. “I actually just met Dane Dunning a few days ago, he seems like a great dude….working out with Nicky [Delmonico] in the offseason – he and I are pretty close. Collins and I are living together for spring training. The clubhouse is super, super close. It’s a fun clubhouse to be in, for sure.”
It does have a ‘fun’ feel to it. Sunday morning Yolmer Sanchez was walking laps around the clubhouse while banging on a drum that apparently belongs to reliever Thyago Vieira. Last week, James Shields and Nicky Delmonico were showcasing some sort of card trick. And just a few days ago, Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada were dog-piling Tim Anderson after a batting practice session.
It’s a lively young group that appears to have bought in to the rebuild. And they’re having fun enjoying the process.
THE TALENT SEEMS ENDLESS
Just about anywhere you look around Sox camp, there’s intrigue. Whether it’s a hitting group featuring Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo – or a batting practice session showcasing Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson – it’s all become appointment viewing.
And don’t forget about the pitchers. Kopech. Giolito. Cease. Lopez. Hansen. Fulmer. It’s impressive to watch them up close.
“I think for the most part we do feed off that energy,” Kopech said. “It is fun to kind of have that friendly competition [with other pitchers].”
It’s a talent-rich system Rick Hahn has constructed, but the Sox aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We love the excitement that’s not only coming out of that clubhouse, but from our fans as well,” Hahn said on the day pitchers and catchers reported. “There have been various podcasts talking about whether we’re ready to win. There’s been articles written about whether this team is ready to contend for a wild card. We’re not going to do anything to stifle that level of excitement. At the same time, we know that we’re one year into a rebuild – these things traditionally take longer than that.
“This is an important year from a player development stand point. You’ve heard me say that some of that development occurs at the big league club.”
Last season, Sox fans were watching Charlotte Knights’ 11 a.m. weekday games to see how Yoan Moncada was performing. Expect more of the same as the fan base anxiously awaits the big league arrival of Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez.
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720