It looked like Nicky Delmonico became the last reason to throw in the towel on White Sox spring training when he collided with Tyler Saladino on Saturday.
The Cactus League season had already eliminated Jake Burger (ruptured Achilles), Alec Hansen (forearm soreness) and Luis Robert (sprained thumb) from making starts on Opening Day and beyond, and it removed Micker Adolfo (sprained UCL) from outfield duties. For that matter, Eloy Jimenez was limited until one plate appearance before the weekend due to patellar tendintis.
But lo: Delmonico says his injury was finally one that wasn’t worse than it looked:
“I think it was more of a scare than anything,’’ Delmonico said, looking healthy in shorts and a T-shirt after receiving treatment at the Sox’ spring-training complex. “I went down hard on it . . . but everything feels good. I didn’t wake up sore, so it’s good.’’
Delmonico, who throws right and bats left, said the team doctor who examined him said “everything was perfect.”
“The MRI was clean,’’ Delmonico said. “Got treatment twice today, coming in [Tuesday for treatment] and swinging it Wednesday.”
Delmonico isn’t a prospect in the classic sense, but he fits the practical purpose of one, in that he could offer average play from a position while being under team control for six seasons. Assuming Delmonico returns to action on his timeline, maybe this is the tipping point for restoring the usual optimism attached to fine spring performances. It certainly has the makings of a teachable moment, as it underscores why Rick Renteria wants outfielders calling for the ball.
“As much as we work on it and talk about it and have had days where we’ve had bad communication and worked on it the next day and harped on it, those types of plays impact you a little bit more,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he’ll be more apt to be able to communicate and still stay focused on the baseball. One thing he was talking about, he said ‘I was really focused on the ball.’ He says ‘I dropped one before, I took my eye off of it. I didn’t want to take my eye off of this one,’ but then he kind of pushed the mute button and didn’t command it. You’ve got to be able to do both. And it’s experience, continuing to be out there and knowing the outfielder has control over everything that’s coming in toward the infield.”
If it weren’t for this hex-looking thing hovering over the White Sox’ younger players, there’d be a number of developments worth some excitement. Jogging through them as I return to regular duties.
Eloy Jimenez: He hit a pinch-hit homer against the Cubs and followed it up with one off Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, but the subsequent triple might come as better news, as it shows his knee can withstand more than a trot.
After striking out in his only plate appearances during the first two weeks of spring play, Jimenez has gone 4-for-6 with two homers, a triple and two walks. He did strike out once.
Dylan Cease: A strong start against the Athletics’ regulars earned him a shot against Seattle’s A-team on Monday, and this one was even sharper. He struck out four Mariners over three shutout innings, holding Seattle to a walk and a hit. He did it primarily on the strength of his high-90s fastball. Look at this thing:
If this is his last start of the spring, look at this line: 6 1/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K. But hey, the Oakland start seemed like a one-off nod toward his future, and Rick Renteria gave him another turn, and everybody’s better off for it.
Zack Collins: There may come a point where Collins’ catching determines whether he gets to the big leagues, but his plate presence is still supposed to be his meal ticket, even if contact issues in A-ball disqualified him from the fast track.
Collins spent the instructional league and offseason trying to remove the hitch from his swing, and turning around this up and in fastball from Mark Rzepczynski gives him a highlight to give weight to such hopes, even if James Paxton wasn’t all that excited about it.
Compare that to this video from Collins taking a lefty deep for a walk-off grand slam last July, and you can spot some differences. He’s closed the stance. His bat waggle is less pronounced, both while idling and as he loads up (you can see the bat cross his helmet in the Winston-Salem clip). His hands still travel down and back before he strides into the pitch, but they don’t cover as much ground, and the leg kick is a little bigger and smoother.
I’m not the guy to tell you whether these changes will add up to greater production, but whatever happens in Birmingham, he’ll be going about his business in somewhat of a different way.