SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – White Sox manager Robin Ventura said 32-year-old first baseman Travis Ishikawa “keeps making it more difficult to make a decision one way or another” on the 25th spot on the Opening Day roster.
“You’re looking at a guy that can play first base and a little outfield and can swing it from the left side,’’ Ventura said. “The more looks we really get at him it’s a better understanding of where he’s at and what we need. It’s definitely not a set thing right now where we’re at.’’
Ishikawa was penciled in as the designated hitter for the Sox’ Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies but was “a healthy scratch” before the game. Ishikawa was the only Sox scheduled to play back-to-back days after falling a single shy of hitting for the cycle against the Giants Sunday. He was replaced in the lineup Monday by J.B. Shuck.
With Adam LaRoche gone, Ventura said Ishikawa is probably the best fielding first baseman in camp. But the Sox are covered at first behind Abreu, who Ventura wants to spell on occasion to help keep his legs fresh, with Todd Frazier, Alex Avila, Jerry Sands if he makes the team or even Tyler Saladino.
Ishikawa homered, tripled and doubled against the Giants on Sunday but landing a roster spot won’t stem from results in the final three Cactus League games.
“No, it’s not performance based at this time,’’ Ventura said. “You’re seeing what they can do, what we feel our needs are and you go from there. It’s not a game show at this point to see who plays the best in the last couple.’’
Assuming Shuck makes the Opening Day roster, the final spot would likely go to Sands, Carlos Sanchez
Latos needs “to pick it up”
Ventura on Mat Latos’ rugged four-inning, 96-pitch outing against the Giants Sunday, in which Latos allowed five earned runs on seven hits and three walks: “He just needs to improve. There’s a lot to move forward with. He needs to locate and he hasn’t got through it that easy so far. It’s getting close to the end, we have to pick it up.’’
Not just floating on thin air
The Sox have hit more homers, 45, than any team in spring training, from Florida to Arizona.
“Last year we didn’t hit homers at all  and it translated pretty much of the season [last in the American League],’’ Ventura said. “It is Arizona [where the ball carries well] and you look at it differently but it’s nice that we’re hitting them. It’s a nice feeling any time a guy hits one. I don’t think they’re all that Arizona-ish, just floaters that go over the fence. It’s nice to see some guys swing the bat like that.’’
Matt Davidson hit his fifth homer Monday, against Colorado’s Jordan Lyles, to take the team lead with five. Avisail Garcia, Jimmy Rollins and Saladino each have four. Abreu, Sands, Brett Lawrie and Jason Coats each have three.
Sanchez hit two homers Monday, becoming the 20th Sox to contribute to their total.
Avila to catch Tuesday
Alex Avila, who came out of Friday’s game with a stiff low back, hit in the cage and will catch Chris Sale when the Sox play the Texas Rangers Tuesday in Glendale.
“He’s good,’’ Ventura said.
Ventura, like Avila, downplayed the catcher’s light hitting (one hit, 12 strikeouts) this spring.
“Being the veteran he is I’m more concerned about him getting healthy and behind the plate than his bat,’’ Ventura said.
Here’s how the Sox lined up against the Rockies at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Monday:
Adam Eaton RF
Austin Jackson CF
Jose Abreu 1B
Melky Cabrera LF
J.B. Shuck DH
Matt Davidson 3B
Dioner Navarro C
Tyler Saladino SS
Carlos Sanchez 2B