White Sox to replace Micah Johnson with Carlos Sanchez

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Micah Johnson added speed and a .270 average to the White Sox lineup, but his defense wasn’t measuring up. AP

Calling up Carlos Sanchez and demoting Micah Johnson Thursday seemed like a no-brainer. Unable to endure Johnson’s problematic defense any longer as he learned on the job, the White Sox optioned the rookie to Class AAA Charlotte and brought up Carlos Sanchez to be the team’s new everyday second baseman.

The Sox (14-17) knew Sanchez could out-field Johnson when the pair competed for the Opening Day job during spring training, but Johnson’s decent bat, 84 minor league stolen bases in 2013 and disruptive potential on the bases were too good to pass up. When his defense and baserunning mistakes surfaced over the first 31 games, general manager Rick Hahn pulled the plug.

Johnson, 24, was hitting .270 with two doubles, three RBI, eight runs scored, five walks and three stolen bases.

“Obviously from an offensive standpoint, he was contributing but from a defensive standpoint, he wasn’t quite as consistent play to play as we needed him to be at the big league level and as we expect him to be in the future,” Hahn said. “He also had a couple of questionable base-running decisions, which I think is a part of being young and things, much like the defensive side of things, will get ironed out with repetition.”

When Sanchez, a switch-hitter who batted .250 when called up late last season, broke out to a .344 start at Charlotte – he was twice named International League player of the week – the Sox could hold him back no longer. Unlike Johnson, Sanchez can play shortstop and third base, too.

“We see in Carlos a little more defensive consistency, solid baserunning and being a tough out for us,” Hahn said. “He can help stabilize that position.”

Johnson’s three errors didn’t tell the whole story of a lacking defensive package. Fangraphs rates him near the bottom of major league second basemen in defensive runs saved. And it didn’t help that players around him have also struggled on a team that ranks 14th in the American League.

Sanchez, who three errors at Charlotte but none in the last 24 games, has two homers and five stolen bases in 29 games. He made the Opening Day roster, but only for a short while as left-hander Chris Sale waited a few days to come off the disabled list.

“We do like the fact that he is a kid that got an extended taste last year and that at the start of the year he got beat out for his job, but as opposed to hanging his head, he went down and worked his tail off and obviously had a great amount of success,” Hahn said.

Hahn knows Johnson is disappointed but doesn’t believe he was surprised, “given some of the elements of his game.”

“We still think has a very bright future and that he’s going to have a long, successful career,” said Hahn, who drew a parallel to temporary setbacks of 2005 World Series team members Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand.

“There are just some elements of his game we want him to work on at the minor league level,’’ Hahn said.

Emilio Bonifacio, who started in place of Johnson in the Sox’4-2 win in Milwaukee Wednesday, will stay in his infield/outfield utility role, and Gordon Beckham, last season’s starter at second base, will stay in his as a part-time third baseman, backup middle infielder and pinch-hitter. There are those who have been calling for Beckham to return to second or play more third base where he has started nine games. But his role stays the same, Hahn said.

“It’s fun. This is the role I’ve been given so I’m going to do the best I can in that role,’’ Beckham said.

NOTE: Broadcaster Steve Stone has the weekend in Oakland off and will be replaced in the broadcast booth by Aaron Rowand.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @cst_soxvan

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