MINNEAPOLIS — Win or lose, for the White Sox and their coaching staff, the name of these games in these days of the rebuild is player development, even at the major league level.
“There is still a lot of development going on at this level,’’ said third-base coach Nick Capra, the Sox’ director of player development for five years before he joined the major-league staff two years ago. “There is still a lot of teaching and learning going on, in a lot of areas.’’
Take the Sox’ 7-2 loss to the Twins on Thursday at Target Field, which prevented them from winning an elusive second straight series. Catcher Omar Narvaez, with the Sox trailing 7-2 in the seventh inning, got thrown out trying to stretch a single off the wall into a double.
“That wasn’t necessarily a very good baseball play,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “We talked about it — you’re down by five runs.’’
When players make mistakes, it doesn’t reflect well on them or Renteria’s staff. The Sox are 20-40, a record they didn’t expect even in a rebuilding year.
“Absolutely. It’s tough on the players, and obviously and it’s tough on the coaching staff,’’ Capra said. “We want to do everything we can to help these guys win ballgames. When they don’t, or make a mistake, it’s part of our responsibility to make that better. Yeah, it’s tough on everybody involved.’’
Coaches often arrive at the ballpark at noon for a 7 p.m. game, studying video, doing early work on the field with players. On many days, the work isn’t rewarded, at least not immediately.
“Everybody in this room believes we’re capable of being better, playing better,’’ Capra said. “The results aren’t what we want them to be. It’s a grind, it’s June, and there are four months of the season left to grind through.’’
During that time, all eyes will be on the Sox’ prized young pupils and key components of the rebuild: shortstop Tim Anderson and second baseman Yoan Moncada. Both have shown flashes of greatness and cause for concern, typical of young, talented players playing a difficult game.
“Tim, I think he’s in a pretty good place,” Capra said. “He wants to be better. He’ll tell you he’s still learning different aspects of the game. He’s going to continue to work, and I think the sky is the limit.
“He’s so athletic, we can put him anywhere on the field, but I think he’s a shortstop, yes. Fundamentally, he’s probably not where he needs to be, and he’s made mistakes he shouldn’t have, but that’s how you learn.’’
Moncada, hitting .242, bounced back from an 0-for-5 night with four strikeouts by making contact all four times up and ripping an RBI double against tough right-hander Jose Berrios, who struck out 10 in a complete-game victory.
“Everybody sees what he’s capable of doing,’’ Capra said. “He’s going to get better.
“It’s a mater of consistency for him. He is still a baby, still learning the game, 23 years old and learning on the fly, still progressing and showing flashes of what we expect him to be. He’s going to be a beast when it’s all said and done.’’
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That would be the hope for a player rated as the top prospect in baseball and acquired with three other prospects, including Michael Kopech, for Cy Young candidate Chris Sale. Moncada returns to Boston to face Sale on Friday in the opener of a three-game series against one of baseball’s best teams.
Many eyes will be on him. And the other Sox don’t want to look bad, either.
“A big series,” is how James Shields, who gave up three homers and took the loss Thursday, described it.
Why? Because the Sox believe they’re playing a better brand of ball after taking two of three from the Brewers and splitting four with the Twins.
“We’re feeling really good about our game right now,’’ Shields said. “We’re going into it with a positive attitude. I didn’t do my part today, but these guys have been playing really good the last couple series.’’