CLEVELAND — Four games into the season, in games played in conditions that were cold or wet — or both — it might be too soon to draw conclusions about the 1-3 White Sox.
The sample size is much too small to say what the Sox will be based on three games in Kansas City and one in Cleveland, especially on the hitting and pitching sides. But defense tends to be more of a constant, and the Sox have been shaky at best and shoddy at worst all over the field.
In the three games against the Royals, the Sox were charged with four errors (two throwing by shortstop Tim Anderson), and all nine players were involved in at least one of the following: throwing error, fielding error, bad throw, bobbled ground ball, miscommunication on a fly ball or pop-up. There was more to come in a 5-3 loss to the Indians on Monday, including a costly error.
“For us to be competitive and to give ourselves a chance, we have to play clean defensive baseball,” manager Rick Renteria said Monday before the Sox played the Indians. “I think these guys know it. We talk about it. Any play that ends up unraveling, we talk about it. We go over the video with them. We make sure they understand exactly what happened in a particular moment and try to correct it.’’
After a fly ball fell between left fielder Eloy Jimenez and Anderson on Opening Day — a play in which Anderson didn’t hear the rookie — Renteria said he heard a much-louder Jimenez from the bench on another fly ball, so the message was delivered and heard.
But the same miscue happened in Cleveland in the first inning of the Indians’ home opener, only this time with shortstop Jose Rondon subbing for Anderson, who had gone home on paternity leave.
What’s more, it occurred in a sequence of bad defensive events, starting with Leonys Martin’s leadoff double over right fielder Daniel Palka’s head. Palka — who is in the lineup for his bat only — misread the ball. After Jose Ramirez’s pop-up fell between Rondon and Jimenez, Rondon had a chance to turn a double play on Jake Bauers’ comebacker to right-hander Ivan Nova, but his throw pulled first baseman Yonder Alonso off the bag.
Nova pitched out of trouble, but in the disastrous four-run half of the eighth inning, in which Sox relievers walked four (one intentionally), Yolmer Sanchez made his second error of the young season, unable to reach out and glove Hanley Ramirez’s soft liner with the bases loaded.
Coming out of spring training, the Sox were satisfied with how they looked in the field. It wasn’t perfect, but overall it looked clean.
“It did,” coach Daryl Boston said of his outfielders. “I thought it was a clean spring. Every day [in staff meetings] we go over the night before, and I didn’t have a lot to say except when we played well.’’
And in four real games, the Sox haven’t gone without a defensive highlight or two. Yoan Moncada, making the transition to third base, has made slick plays with the glove. But while he hasn’t been charged with a throwing error, he has double-clutched a few times and hasn’t always been laser-accurate.
It’s early. But it has to get cleaned up, lest a young pitching staff is forced to carry a greater burden than it should.
“I don’t know if [the defense has been] disappointing,’’ Renteria said after the loss to the Indians. “We’ve had a lot of good, and a few that have looked not as good. We’ve had two fly balls probably that have fallen in. We had a ball deflect off a second baseman’s glove today. I don’t know that in some of those instances I’m looking at a horrendous play. Not at all. I think we can do better, for sure.”