ARLINGTON, Texas — White Sox manager Rick Renteria has said “it factor” four or five times during Nicky Delmonico’s torrid start to his major-league career, and you can kind of see why.
Delmonico is tall, handsome and confident, with deep baseball roots having grown up in a baseball family. He’s overcome his share of adversity, and now he’s flourishing in his first break into the big leagues.
“A lot of this has to do with his personality,’’ said third-base coach Nick Capra, the former Sox director of player development who helped Delmonico get his career back on track in the Sox farm system in 2015 and ’16 after he essentially walked away from the game in the aftermath of a 50-day suspension for using Adderall. “He enjoys playing the game and obviously he’s a confident person. His fun-loving approach to this game, knowing where he’s been and where he is now plays a big role in how he plays.’’
Delmonico entered the Sox’ 17-7 loss on Saturday to the Texas Rangers having hit two go-ahead homers in a 4-3 victory here Friday. The second, an inside-the-park poke off the right-field wall, was his fourth in five games.
Delmonico, batting .356, walked and lined out hard to right on Saturday in his 16th game since his call-up from Class AAA Charlotte — where he batted .262 with 12 homers and 45 RBI in 99 games. He was the first Sox ever to open his career by reaching base safely in his first 13 games. His hot start is a sparkle in the dimness of the Sox’ 11-30 record in July and August.
Staked to a 5-0 lead against left-hander Martin Perez before he took the mound, former Ranger Derek Holland got tagged for seven runs in 2‰ innings in his unfortunate return to the place where he still rates as the second winningest lefty in Rangers history. He wrote ‘thank you’ to the fans in the dirt on the back of the mound.
“I just don’t even really know how to answer [what’s going wrong],’’ said Holland, whose ERA climbed to 6.07.
Renteria didn’t rule out the possibility of Holland’s moving to the bullpen.
“Nothing is out of the question but right now he’s in our rotation,’’ Renteria said. “When we move forward we’ll deal with that particular aspect and cross that bridge.
“For Dutch he’s in a weird, odd place. Because he’s a hard worker who tries to clean everything up. But today he pulled some pitches back over the plate. Cutters that he was trying to finish away ended up going back over, getting too much over the plate.”
Jose Abreu hit his 24th homer and tripled and Kevan Smith doubled in two runs. Aside from that, the Sox (46-74) were outclassed, committing three errors (two by shortstop Tim Anderson including one on a routine pop-up) and allowing two homers to Rougned Odor and one to Mike Napoli (five RBI) and Shin-Soo Choo. Adrian Beltre collected his 3,021st career hit, surpassing Rafael Palmeiro for 27th on the all-time hit list. After Holland gave up seven, Dylan Covey gave up six more, Chris Beck allowed three and Brad Goldberg left with a blister.
As the Sox rebuild and with a sparkling prospects list boasting hope for the future, Delmonico is playing as if he wants to be part of it. He’s simply taking it all in stride.
“You have to keep going,’’ Delmonico said. “I have to do everything I can to keep learning and moving forward.’’
Capra said things began to click for Delmonico at Birmingham last summer, “when he realized he could use the whole field and become a good hitter.’’
Renteria has used him in left field and at designated hitter, even though he is a corner infielder by trade. The hope is to groom him into a quality hitter with versatility.
Renteria sees intangibles as well.
“There are certain people that have a quality about them that you can’t define or describe,’’ he said. “You just know they have it. And he’s one of those people. There is a specialness to him.’’
Is he here to stay?
“If he can keep repeating his approach at the plate, I see no reason he wouldn’t,” Capra said.
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.