White Sox could use a Yermin Mercedes bounceback
“He’s a talented guy and we need him,” manager Tony La Russa said. “And lately he looks more like he did early in the season. It’s a good time for it to come together.”
It’s plain to see the White Sox’ lineup needs reinforcements, and before Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert return — whenever that is.
It won’t be until August at the earliest, in all likelihood, that their star outfielders return. That’s why the team is engaged in discussions with the Diamondbacks about infielder Eduardo Escobar. Scoring runs has become a challenge. The Yermin Mercedes experience, which entertained and helped offset the loss of Jimenez in April, is a distant memory.
While executives Rick Hahn and Ken Williams weigh which prospects to part with in a trade for Escobar or any other proven bat, they wait and hope that Mercedes can bounce back and give the lineup a boost. No one expects Mercedes to sustain the performance that made him the Rookie of the Month for April, but any sort of uptick would help.
Going 4-for-9 with a double and an RBI in the weekend series against the Mariners gave a glimmer of hope. Mercedes is batting .164/.203/.197 in June after hitting .221/.292/.326 in May. He hit five homers in April but has two since.
The weekend series marked the first time since the middle of May that Mercedes hit safely in three consecutive games.
“He’s a talented guy, and we need him,” manager Tony La Russa said. “And lately he looks more like he did early in the season. It’s a good time for it to come together.”
On Monday, Mercedes offered the common refrain hitters who struggle often give, saying that he has tried to do too much and that he has to keep working hard to rediscover the place he wants to be hitting-wise. When Mercedes was on a roll in April, he picked up spin on breaking balls and laid off pitches out of the strike zone. When he struggled, he chased. And then he started to have trouble with hard stuff.
“I’m the type of player, so exciting every day when I come to home plate, when I go to the field,” Mercedes said. “I’m the most exciting guy, try to have fun. For me, I think I tried to do too much. For that reason, a little bit struggling, but we take it back. We’re working on it, too.”
“He obviously has talent,” La Russa said. “You can get distracted, and you try to do more. His average started dropping, and he started getting concerned and you say, ‘Look, you can’t force hits.’ ’’
Mercedes worked in the indoor cages Monday before the game against the Twins was postponed because of rain around 4 p.m.
Michael Kopech pitched a simulated game outside just before a thunderstorm came through the area.
Kopech looked “sharp” in his second simulated game, La Russa said. How Kopech, who’s on the injured list with a strained right hamstring, responds Tuesday could weigh in a decision to send him for a rehab outing or two at Triple-A Charlotte.
“He went back for extra when he needed it,” La Russa said. “All in all, very positive.”
The game against the Twins will be made up as part of a straight doubleheader July 19 starting at 4:10 p.m.
“Major League Baseball tracks this stuff and was already in touch with [general manager] Rick [Hahn],” La Russa said of the rainout. “It was within minutes after Kopech finished throwing to Billy Hamilton and Zack [Collins], it started to storm with lightning and thunder. I just figured no chance.”
NOTES: Jose Abreu, hit in the knee with a pitch Sunday, told Tony La Russa he was ready to play Monday.
• Switch-hitter Billy Hamilton (oblique) will hit right-handed exclusively when he comes off the injured list, La Russa said.