MINNEAPOLIS — First base coach Daryl Boston tried everything in an attempt to learn how to whistle, including watching instructional videos on YouTube.
Nothing seemed to work.
A 1981 first-round pick of the White Sox, Boston found his skill set running thin when it came to whistling, which, for a coach in charge of positioning outfielders from the dugout, was a problem.
Enter Sox pregame instructor and winter basketball official Mike Kashirsky, who solved the problem by setting up Boston with a couple of referee’s whistles.
“I had started with a couple of little ones that didn’t work too well, and Kash said, ‘You need to get a real whistle,’ ’’ Boston said.
Throughout the year, Boston’s whistle has been the one heard ’round the American League and not only when positioning outfielders. When anyone makes a good defensive play, it can be heard in the 500 level at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“When I’m trying to get their attention, it’s just a nice ‘beep-beep,’ but if somebody makes a nice defensive play, I hit it hard,’’ Boston said.
There’s no official record of Boston’s whistles, but it’s safe to say rookie center fielder Adam Engel has generated as many as anyone.
“He’s been playing Gold Glove-caliber center field,’’ said Boston, who spent most of his 11-year career playing the position. “He’s relentless. He’s fearless. Anytime a ball goes up in that area, you think it’s going to be caught.’’
Before the Sox bolstered their farm system with prospects via numerous trades, Engel entered the season as their 12th-ranked prospect. Baseball America tabbed him as the best defensive outfielder in the system.
“It’s all instinct,’’ Boston said. “We’ve had guys like Adam Engel who could run as well as anybody but didn’t have the same instincts and reads and routes that this kid has. It’s a joy to watch.’’
Engel, 25, doubled in a run against Bartolo Colon, walked and stole a base in the Sox’ 5-4 loss Thursday afternoon against the Twins at Target Field. It was a needed shot in the arm on the offensive side for Engel, who’s batting .175 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 233 plate appearances.
“He’s a work in progress,’’ Boston said. “He’s going to compete. He might not have it figured out now, but he’s going to find a way to figure it out and survive.’’
The Sox, using a lighter-than-usual lineup with Jose Abreu, Nicky Delmonico, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada out nursing injuries, got six innings of three-run ball from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and a tiebreaking homer from second baseman Alen Hanson against Matt Belisle leading off the ninth.
But the Twins scored two in the ninth against Juan Minaya, getting the tying run on Eddie Rosario’s single to right and the winning run when Minaya hit Max Kepler with a down-and-in breaking ball on the first pitch with the bases loaded and two outs.
Minaya appeared to have a shot at escaping with a tie when he caught Jorge Polanco’s soft liner for the second out. He looked at third with a chance to double off Brian Dozier, who was diving back, but did not throw.
The Sox (52-80) finished August with an 11-18 record.
As good as the defense has been for Engel, he knows he won’t survive in the majors unless his hitting line gets closer to what he produced in the minors (.260/.341/.400). Injuries to Charlie Tilson and Leury Garcia and the demotion of Opening Day center fielder Jacob May opened a door he hopes to keep open.
“I’m struggling a little bit at the plate, but it’s a very valuable time for me to feel what I’m going to feel and work on the things I’m working on,’’ Engel said. “And go out and play defense to help the team win.’’
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