Tim Anderson doesn’t have to look far in the White Sox’ clubhouse to find a struggling teammate.
Like, really struggling.
Yolmer Sanchez, next to his locker at his left, has three hits in his first 31 plate appearances. Daniel Palka, nearby in the other direction, has none in 29 with 12 strikeouts.
Anderson, meanwhile, is anything but. In fact, the 25-year-old shortstop is hitting almost everything in sight with 19 hits in 38 plate appearances and a .514 average and 1.256 OPS.
It’s early, and it’s such a small sample size, but Anderson had a good spring and thinks he can maintain better numbers than what he put up the first 2½ seasons of his career (.258/.286/.411). He went 2-for-4 with his third stolen base in as many games and owns a nine-game hitting streak bridged over two games he missed on paternity leave.
“Everything is clicking,” Anderson said Wednesday.
It started after he and hitting coach Todd Steverson broke down video during the offseason and came away with a plan to “keep things simple.” The biggest change was keeping the barrel of the bat still in his stance.
“I was loading, but my barrel was still moving, and I was swinging off, coming off a lot of pitches,” Anderson said. “It’s helping me stay on the inside of the baseball. There’s less movement. I try to keep that bat as still as I can, and once I get into that fire stage, just let the hands flow.”
Anderson’s offense has been a light in a bleak start for the Sox, whose 9-1 loss to the Rays was their fifth in a row. That he matters in their future was something positive to take away on a dreary, cold day for a 3-8 team. The bonus, he said, in having had 1,564 at-bats going into the season was that it gave him something to look at, to break down and to fix.
“We dove into his timing,” Steverson said. “How he was getting connected with the pitcher and the level of effort he was using to get to his land spot with his front foot. I always thought it was quick, and he rushed through it and swung at some bad pitches. It’s going to happen because it’s baseball, but if you can minimize that by putting yourself in position earlier, on time, and see and recognize the pitch better, you’re going to cut that down just by controlling your body.”
Anderson said it feels like he’s getting better pitches to hit. That’s probably because he’s in a better position to see the ball, and he’s swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone.
“That’s the thing on hitting — if I get good pitches to hit, I’m going to be just fine,” he said. “Being aggressive, but being aggressive in the zone is something I’ve been learning and trying to do for the longest time. It’s all coming together, but I’m still figuring it out.’’
Meanwhile, Palka, the team’s home-run leader (27) as a rookie in 2018, and Sanchez, the team’s hits (145) and triples (10) leader last season, are looking for answers. Sanchez has a single in each of his last two games, so that’s a start.
“The first week was a super struggle,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘I was like, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I was swinging at bad pitches; my body was all over the place. But I feel better.’’
The Sox need a lot of guys to get well soon.
“Some guys are able to control [slumps] a little bit easier, a little quicker,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “Sometimes with failure, it depends on how they deal with it, if they’re ready to get back up off the mat and get out there and do what they need to do.’’