MINNEAPOLIS – When catcher Kevan Smith was scratched from his major league debut with the White Sox because his back locked up during the team’s pregame stretch, manager Robin Ventura tucked the original lineup card away.
Just in case.
“You just never know what someone’s story might be,’’ said Ventura, who didn’t rule out the possibility of Smith never getting another shot.
Since then, Smith has recovered from the sacroiliac joint dysfunction in his back and a knee injury that occurred later, enough to avert a tragedy and get another call-up when rosters were expanded on the first day of September Thursday. The Sox also called up right-hander Juan Minaya and could add more from the AAA Charlotte Knights, who are fighting for an International League playoff berth.
Both call-ups made their major league debuts in the eighth inning, a scoreless frame for Minaya which ended on a strikeout (Kurt Suzuki) and caught stealing (Jorge Polanco).
Smith received some good-natured ribbing, because that’s what baseball players do. And Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn both referred to him as “Moonlight Graham Smith.”
“I was reading a book called ‘Bad Luck Way’ at the beginning of the year; how ironic is that,’’ Smith said Thursday.
Most of the catching chores will be shared by Alex Avila and Omar Narvaez, but Smith will likely get a start before too long, Ventura said. Smith, a 28-year-old career .282 hitter over six minor league seasons in the Sox organization, hit .219 with eight home runs in 49 games with Charlotte in 2016.
The Sox also promoted AA catcher Alfredo Gonzalez to Charlotte.
Minaya, 25, was 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA with one save and 28 strikeouts over 17 relief appearances with Charlotte. The Sox claimed him off waivers from Houston on June 22 after he was designated for assignment on June 20. He has no major-league experience.
Sox to get $2 million yearly from Guaranteed Rate
The Sox 13-year deal with Guaranteed Rate for their ballpark’s naming rights is worth $20.4 million over the next 10 years according to Illinois Sports Facility Authority records.
The Sox received $3.4 million on average per year from U.S. Cellular, and the average price for rights among the 20 teams with naming agreements is more than $4 million (an average hiked by the Mets’ $20 million annual payment from Citigroup). However, the Sox and Guaranteed Rate also agreed on sponsorship elements associated with White Sox baseball, which includes branding, promotional and hospitality benefits as well as joint marketing opportunities.
The Sox’ ballpark will be called Guaranteed Rate Field starting Nov. 1.
With Alex Avila a free agent and Dioner Navarro traded, catcher will once again be an area to address in the off-season. While defense matters most at that position, Hahn said “given where we are from an offensive standpoint and as a club we’re going to look for areas to improve offensively and that’s actually one of them.’’
“We’ll get there in the offseason. But there’s potentially some options there whether it’s via free agency or trade or some of the internal options.’’
Gonzalez roughed up
Miguel Gonzalez (groin) gave up six earned runs on 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings in his minor league rehab start for Charlotte. Gonzalez struck out seven and walked none. He threw 74 pitches, 57 for strikes.
He is expected to rejoin the Sox next week.
Right-hander Jake Petricka, a Minnesota native who is out for the season after hip surgery, was a visitor in the Sox clubhouse. Hahn said Petricka will have a normal offseason and that he and fellow bullpen right-hander Zach Putnam (elbow), who is also out for the year, “should be absolutely in the free and clear without restriction when we come back to camp.’’