The leadoff spot is agreeing with Yoan Moncada.
Ever since White Sox manager Rick Renteria began batting his switch-hitting second baseman first in Cactus League games on the second day of March, Moncada has embraced the role. After a slow start to the spring, Moncada finished it batting .271/.358/.475 with three home runs, and in the Sox’ 9-5 exhibition victory Monday against their Class AAA team in Charlotte, he lined two more sharp singles before taking the rest of the night off.
It was the Sox’ last tuneup before the season opener Thursday against the Royals. The Sox are off Tuesday and will work out in Kansas City on Wednesday before facing scheduled Royals starter Danny Duffy.
Look for Moncada to lead off, followed by Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu third, a 1-2-3 combination Renteria has favored the last couple of weeks. Garcia, coming off an All-Star season, also had two hits, including a long homer to left against right-hander Donn Roach.
Moncada, the No. 1-ranked prospect in baseball in 2017, batted .231/.338/.412 last season with eight homers and 29 walks in 54 games after getting called up July 19. In his last 21 games, he batted .299 with an .882 OPS. He did not lead off last season.
“His experiences from last year are going to pay a lot of dividends,’’ Renteria told Charlotte media before the game. “Toward the latter part of last season, he really took off with the bat. He has a tremendously high skill set, and he started to lay off pitches he might have had trouble with [before].’’
Center fielder Adam Engel also had two hits, both doubles. Engel batted .383/.453/.702 this spring, and Garcia hit .364/.379/.564.
No. 3 starter Reynaldo Lopez worked around two hits and three walks without giving up a run in 2‰ innings. He operated in much the same fashion in Arizona with a 3.86 ERA this spring and 11 walks in 18‰ innings.
Nate Jones, Danny Farquhar and Joakim Soria each pitched a perfect inning of relief. Juan Minaya allowed three runs in one inning.
Most Sox starters were out of the game by the fourth or fifth inning.
Anderson, Delmonico sit
Shortstop Tim Anderson and left fielder Nicky Delmonico did not start again after both missed the last game in Arizona on Sunday.
Anderson has a left-shoulder issue, and Delmonico has a hamstring problem, both of which Renteria described Sunday as minor.
A Sox spokesman said both were kept out for precautionary reasons three days ahead of opening day.
Other than James Shields on opening day, Renteria hasn’t made the rotation order official, but all signs point to Lucas Giolito in the second game of the Royals series Saturday, followed by Lopez on Sunday.
Miguel Gonzalez starts in Toronto on Monday, and Carson Fulmer goes next Tuesday. Giolito lines up for the Sox’ home opener against the Tigers on April 5.
Sox’ opening-day roster
Starting pitchers: Shields, Giolito, Lopez, Gonzalez, Fulmer.
Relief pitchers: Jones, Soria, Farquhar, Minaya, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Luis Avilan, Hector Santiago.
Infielders: Abreu, Moncada, Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez, Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino.
Outfielders: Avisail Garcia, Engel, Delmonico, Leury Garcia.
Catchers: Welington Castillo, Omar Narvaez.
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