Defense at top of White Sox Nicky Delmonico’s to-do list

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Nicky Delmonico gets a bath from teammates Rymer Liriano (48) and Jose Abreu, right, after Delmonico’s game winning two-run home run off Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Blake Parker on Sept. 27 in Chicago. (AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A corner infielder by trade, Nicky Delmonico was thrown into left field last season, a not-so-easy switch. Despite a not-so-smooth transition with the glove, it took the left-handed-hitting 25-year-old only 43 major-league games to become a fan favorite after his Aug. 1 call-up from Class AAA Charlotte.

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A red-hot start — he reached base in his first 13 games and hit six home runs in his first 19 — will do that. Good looks and personality, as well as a victorious comeback story about beating an addiction to Adderall, only enhanced his appeal.

“He has the ‘it’ factor,’’ manager Rick Renteria would often say last season.

Delmonico would finish with a .262/.373/.482 slash line, nine homers and 23 RBI, gaining new fans till the very end.

“Nicky Delmonico is my favorite player,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said after Delmonico’s walk-off homer against the Angels allowed the Twins, watching the Sox on TV in their clubhouse, to clinch a playoff spot Sept. 28.

Delmonico should get a fair share of time in left field — perhaps an opening-day nod — as well as at-bats as a designated hitter. Defense is at the top of his spring priority list.

“I’m just trying anything to get better,” Delmonico said Saturday. “I’m trying to get better reads in the outfield and become a better outfielder. Anything I can to make the team.

“It’s always a competition regardless. I’m going to go out and try to get better, push people around me to be better and whatever happens, happens.’’

Bearded Abreu reports

Sporting a beard, Jose Abreu checked into camp two days before the first full-squad workout Monday.

“He needs to shave,’’ Yoan Moncada said, sporting a lighter beard of his own and casting a grin at the Sox’ slugging first baseman.

Moncada and Abreu, whose lockers will surround $52 million Cuban prospect Luis Robert’s, worked out together before taking the field for drills and batting practice Saturday morning. Abreu smiled at Moncada’s remark.

The two of them will keep watch over Robert, 21.

“We’re three Cubans here, and we can have fun,’’ Moncada said. “Last year in camp, Abreu taught me a lot. I can keep learning from him, and Abreu and I can teach Luis things to get used to the process.’’

Jimenez, Robert — incoming

Robert and Eloy Jimenez are expected in camp Sunday. According to MLBPipeline.com, Jimenez is the No. 4 prospect in baseball behind pitcher-outfielder Shohei Ohtani (Angels), outfielder Ronald Acuna (Braves) and third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays). Robert is No. 28.

Burger’s defense ‘developing’

Third baseman Jake Burger did not get drafted 11th overall last June for his glove, but Renteria applauded the 6-2, 210-pounder’s defense. And general manager Rick Hahn insists there’s hope his future is at the hot corner.

“If you’re not careful, you can fall into a trap when you look at the body and your first instinct is, that’s not a third baseman,’’ Hahn said. “When you actually watch him and see how the hands work and how the lateral movement is, and the athleticism that is actually in there, you realize there is a real chance for him to be over there.’’

Burger, a power hitter with a good eye, has been working on it.

“I think I’ve developed a lot over there,’’ he said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense. There are two sides to the game. You can’t be one-dimensional.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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