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Daniel Palka won’t be homerless going into White Sox’ opener

Daniel Palka, right, is congratulated on his two-run home run by Eloy Jimenez in the seventh inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Monday, March 25, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AZET116

PHOENIX — Daniel Palka’s 440-foot home run in the White Sox’ exhibition game seemed like a needed blast for the team’s 2018 home run leader. After all, the left-handed hitting outfielder hadn’t connected all spring and is batting .171 with 16 strikeouts.

But Palka said he was fine before he barreled on one up against Yoshihisa Hirano.

“To be honest, I felt good all spring. It feels good to have a couple at-bats but it’s still spring training,” said Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last season. “I’m probably a career .100 hitter in spring training, so, that’s the way it rolls.

“The only year I had a good spring training was when I had five at-bats.”

Palka tweaked a hamstring on Feb. 24 and missed time but still appeared in 15 games with 32 at-bats. He said he has been feeling good at the plate and seeing the ball well, which tells him he’s ready for Opening Day Thursday in Kansas City.

Palka hit a 409-foot double to center field and flied out to left field Tuesday.

Jay still out

Outfielder Jon Jay (hip, back soreness), whose only game action in the last 13 days was a four-inning stint Sunday, remained out and appears headed to the injured list to start the season. The Sox will set the Opening Day roster after their exhibition game against the Diamondbacks Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s still being treated, manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday morning. “We’ll know more at end of the day. Postgame we’ll have a clearer update.”

Leading off

With Jay likely sidelined, Renteria said he likes Leury Garcia, who batted .431 this spring, leading off. Yoan Moncada, his top choice in the leadoff spot last season, hasn’t been used there much this spring but led off Tuesday with Garcia on the bench in favor of Adam Engel in center field.

“It depends,” Renteria said. “We’ll look at the matchups. I like Leroy in that top slot as well. He’s done a nice job this spring. He’s been there on purpose to see how it all plays out.”

Who’s on first

Jose Abreu got more time at first base than Yonder Alonso in their first base/designated hitter job share this spring. Neither one is fond of DH-ing and both have played much more at first base.

“I don’t see a problem, I want to be flexible with both,” Renteria said. “Yonder allows us a few more days to give Pito more days at the DH slot, get him off his legs for a full game. Something he’s always fought me about, with is natural. But Yonder is the same way, he wants to play, too. We’ll find the best mix to keep them both rolling.”

Thomas joins NBCSCH team

Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas is joining NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage team as a game day studio analyst on “White Sox Pregame Live. Thomas will also make occasional appearances on the network’s weeknight lead-in “Baseball Night in Chicago” program.

The Big Hurt’s first appearance will be Opening Day Thursday. NBCSCH hired Thomas’ former teammate and manager Ozzie Guillen as a pregame and postgame analyst last week.

The lineup

Here’s the lineup for the Tuesday exhibition:

Moncada 3B, Sanchez 2B, Abreu 1B, Alonso DH, Jimenez LF, Palka RF, Castillo C, Anderson SS, Engel CF, Nova P.