White Sox manager Rick Renteria sat not one but both of his young middle infielders Thursday, a day after second baseman Yoan Moncada bobbled two ground balls and shortstop Tim Anderson one in a Sox victory.
The message from Renteria? Focus and concentration.
None of the minor miscues was scored an error, but all three were playable chances — a Moncada bobble on a routine double-play grounder was the most glaring — and Renteria somewhat uncharacteristically made a point of alluding to them after the game.
The next day, while the Sox were losing 5-2 to the Indians, Moncada, 23, and Anderson, 24, were on the bench “where they could take a step back, catch their breath” and “see how the other guys go about it. See how [Yolmer Sanchez] goes about his at-bats, see how he goes about playing the game.”
Moncada and Anderson made late appearances, Anderson striking out and Moncada popping out and playing an inning in the field. Anderson is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and is 5-for-38 in his last 12 games. Moncada is hitting .165 in his last 20 games. Anderson has made 11 errors, and Moncada, playing his first full season in the majors, has seven. They are the Sox’ middle infielders of the future, and neither one lacks for talent.
“This game humbles you,” Renteria said. “If you are not ready for every pitch defensively, it can also get you, just like if you are not ready in the box or on the bases, any aspect. You have to be ready for every pitch. They are continuing to learn those things. This is a grind. This is a man’s game. This is a game in which focus and concentration are really required of you. You are playing against the best in the game.
“We want you to stay focused in maximizing your ability over time.”
Renteria said Anderson and Moncada were talked to before the game.
“They were good conversations,’’ he said.
“We as coaches and teammates can articulate, ‘This is how we see things, this is the perspective; how do you see it?’ ” Renteria said. “Bench coach [Joe McEwing] is talking about it, we’re all talking about it. We have conversations with them. And it’s a good experience for them to understand that there are ways of continuing to approach and to learn from this. They have been pressing, and I just want to give them a breath.”
Sox veteran leader Jose Abreu said he wasn’t aware of the reasons why Moncada and Anderson, who are expected to be in the lineup when the Sox host the Tigers to open a three-game series Friday, didn’t start. He assumed it was for a rest.
“There’s always value in that,’’ Abreu said. “In their cases, they are passing through a tough moment, especially in their offense. A day off for them, being young players, can be good to get more focused and figure out things from the outside.’’
For the Sox, it’s all part of the growing pains of a rebuild. General manager Rick Hahn reiterated this week that Anderson is viewed as a championship-caliber shortstop. And so much rides on the development of Moncada, the prized prospect acquired in the Chris Sale trade.
“They are two kids that are pretty special in my eyes,’’ Renteria said, “in terms of who we are as an organization. It’s another phase of their growth. We spoke to them a little during the game, more about some of the observations they were making on some of the plays that were made or not made, how guys were reacting, what they saw. They had some good responses, which was good. They’re going to continue to get better. Our expectations are they will, and they’re going to be a part of something good here.’’