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Professional

Moncada learning on the fly

Batting woes continue; Friday’s game postponed

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada went 0-4 on Thursday against the Twins, dropping his average to .184.
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada went 0-4 on Thursday against the Twins, dropping his average to .184.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria took a few extra minutes after Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Twins to meet with second baseman Yoan
Moncada.

Most of the Sox players had a difficult night at the plate against Twins right-hander Jose Berrios. But Moncada went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and his batting average dropped to .184 through the Sox’s first 12 games. He also misplayed a ground ball that allowed Eduardo Escobar to reach base in the eighth.

Renteria’s purpose for the chat was twofold. He wanted to reinforce to Moncada that he should worry about himself and not outside expectations. And he wanted to remind Moncada he needs to maintain his focus and his willingness to learn throughout an entire game and an entire season.

“He’s by no means a finished product, and I want him to understand he’s not a finished product,” Renteria said. “But I want him to understand there are certain things you have to do. You have to maintain focus, and if you’re not hitting, you’ve got to catch the ball. And if you’re not catching the ball, you better hit. But you can’t fail at both, because then there’s a problem. So a lot of it has to do with learning, focusing and continuing to
concentrate.”

It was the second time in two games Renteria has had to address Moncada
specifically.

In Wednesday’s victory over the Rays, the Sox called for a suicide squeeze with Omar Narvaez on third base. But Moncada laid off the bunt, and Narvaez was caught in a rundown.

“He just told me in those situations, I have to execute,” Moncada said Thursday through a team interpreter. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad pitch, I have to bunt the ball. I understood that, and I know that it was my mistake.

“It’s always good when you have a manager like Ricky who is able to communicate in your own language and can explain to you the things that you need to do and why things happen. After we talked, I felt better. I’m not saying that I felt good, because I knew that it was my responsibility, but after we talked, I was able to digest a little bit better the situation just because of the way he talked to me.”

The outside expectations Renteria spoke of Thursday are real for Moncada.

He joined the Sox organization last season from the Chris Sale trade as baseball’s top prospect. After he finally was called up to the majors in July, he took a while to heat up before a solid September.

Moncada’s taking a while this season too.

He is 9-for-49 with three doubles, a homer, three RBIs, eight walks and a team-leading 24 strikeouts.

His swing is not in sync, he said, and it doesn’t help that he is playing for the first time in his life in cold, snowy weather. Renteria has also noticed an issue with head movement.

“He’s got to just stay within his approach, get pitches he can handle, try not to do too much,” Renteria said. “Honestly, I think he’s pulling his head a little bit, so he’s not really seeing the ball into the zone as well as I would like him to see the ball into the zone. But on top of that, just continue to eliminate noise.”

Moncada said he hopes guidance from the coaching staff and fellow Cuban Jose Abreu will help him to overcome his recent struggles.

“I’m not frustrated,” Moncada said. “I know that probably the results are not there, the good results, but I still have plenty of confidence in me. I believe in myself, because I know what I’m capable of doing. Right now it’s just a matter of a rough time, but I still feel very confident in myself.”

Emergency contact: White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino finished catching Carson Fulmer’s side session Thursday afternoon at Target Field and sat down at his locker to do an interview in his catching gear.

He was enjoying the novelty of it too much to change.

“I might just leave it on all day,” Saladino said with a smile. “Feels great.”

Sox catcher Welington Castillo tweaked his right knee Tuesday. While an MRI revealed no structural damage, Castillo felt soreness after the Sox’s flight to Minneapolis, and manager Rick Renteria held him out of the lineup against the Twins.

Third-year catcher Omar Narvaez will start until Castillo returns – Renteria hopes it will only be a couple of days – but Saladino is the team’s emergency backup in the meantime.

Saladino, who has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the majors, always liked catching when he did it before high school. He has caught bullpens and practiced receiving off a pitching machine in past spring trainings, and he said he practiced putting down signs Thursday.

Renteria said bullpen catcher Mark Salas gave Saladino good reviews for his work during Fulmer’s session.

“We don’t want anything to happen that [they] would need me to be in the ballgame,” Saladino said. “I’m just trying to be [as] prepared as I can. It is kind of silly when you see me walking around in the gear, but I take it seriously.”

Saladino warmed up starter James Shields between innings during Wednesday’s victory over the Rays, and also caught a few warmup pitches from hard-throwing reliever Nate Jones.

“He was bringing it,” Saladino said of Jones. “It was a little different. They are two different pitchers.

“Wely said, ‘Make sure to open the eyes a little bit more before you catch Nate.’ It was fun.”

Sox-Twins postponed: Friday night’s game at Target Field was postponed early in the day due to a forecast of rain, snow and cold.

The final two games of the four-game series Saturday and Sunday are also in question due to a storm that was set to hit Minneapolis on Friday night. Some forecasts predict up to a foot of snow to fall by Saturday night.

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