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White Sox’ Tim Anderson saving legs for when it counts

Tim Anderson stretches during batting practice before a scheduled spring training baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The game was cancelled due to rain. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tim Anderson, the first White Sox shortstop to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season, isn’t stealing much this spring, but only because the time isn’t right.

“Save my legs until the season,’’ Anderson said. “I’ve been practicing my jumps and breaking pitchers down whether I’m running or not. Use the legs when it really matters.’’

Anderson, who stole 26 bases and hit 20 homers in 2018, knows how to take care of his body. He played through a sore knee for a stretch last season but has stayed off the injured list since he came to the majors in 2016.

“I’ve done a great job — I should say the trainers have done a great job — keeping me on the field,’’ Anderson said.

Anderson trains his 6-1, 190-pound body during the offseason but doesn’t go overboard.

“I don’t try to get too crazy with it, mostly just trying to maintain a lot of things,’’ he said. “Just strengthening rather than getting big.’’

Seeing if Anderson, 25, has more in his production tank bears watching in 2019. In 2018, his second full season, he joined American League MVP Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Starling Marte and Trevor Story as the only players in the majors with 20 or more homers and 25-plus stolen bases.

He was four steals shy of joining outfielders Alex Rios in 2010 and Tommie Agee in 1966 as the only Sox with 20-30 homer/stolen-base seasons.

To steal more bags, Anderson, who was caught eight times, will have to run more often or get on base more. Drawing more walks — he walked 30 times last season — would go a long way toward lifting his on-base percentage (.281).

As a way of encouraging that, hitting coach Todd Steverson taped a sheet of paper above the clubhouse door with Anderson’s and Leury Garcia’s respective walk tallies this spring. Garcia has three, Anderson one.

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“It’s a small competition between the two because both of them are clear swingers,” Steverson said. “So I just kind of make light of it every time they take a walk during a game. ‘Hey, Leury took a walk! Hey, Timmy took a walk.’ Just make them realize you don’t have to swing at everything. It’s just a fun game between those two.’’

Anderson is having a good spring at the plate, hitting .304 with a homer, triple, four doubles, six RBI and seven strikeouts in 15 games.

“The majority of pitches Timmy has missed this spring were pretty nasty,” Steverson said. “Nasty with two strikes. He also hit some tough pitches and drove them to the opposite side of the field. Timmy is coming along quite well.’’

Those things come with experience. Anderson, who led his high school team in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to a state championship his senior year, didn’t play baseball till his junior year, so he has been characterized as a late bloomer who’s a bit younger in baseball years.

“He’s starting to understand himself, starting to understand his approach and mindset for an at-bat,’’ Steverson said.

Noting Anderson’s late start in baseball because of his devotion to basketball as a teenager, Steverson watched him turn a corner defensively last season and believes he “can also do the same thing on the flip side [offensively].”

“People may think he’s been here forever, but he’s going into only his third full year, 25 years old,’’ Steverson said. “Right about the time where you say, ‘I got this.’ ’’