PEORIA, Ariz. — Ryan Cordell is new around here, and he has taken notice of the environment in White Sox camp.
Cordell likes what he sees.
“Great team atmosphere, you can tell they’re working toward that championship-caliber team,’’ Cordell, 25, said. “They’re taking a lot of pride in everything we do on the field, defensively and offensively, and with the little intricacies in the game. I like that, yet there’s also a lot of freedom to be the best you can be.’’
The Sox want the 6-4, 205-pound Cordell to be the best he can be with his well-rounded skill set — speed, hitting and hitting for power. And he has played a number of positions during his minor-league career, which gives you an idea why the Sox sought him out from the Brewers in their trade of right-hander Anthony Swarzak last July.
Cordell has been deemed athletic enough, at different points in his career, to play center field and shortstop. The Sox have a position to be won in center and are giving him an opportunity to prove he can handle it.
“He’s an impressive young man,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.
Starting in center, Cordell doubled three times against the Rangers on Thursday and went 1-for-3 as a leadoff man Friday against the Padres.
He’s batting .409 with six walks and only two strikeouts.
“His at-bats are quality at-bats,’’ Renteria said. “His swings in hitting counts are very strong. It’s almost like you know that he’s putting himself in a position to do damage. When he puts himself in hitters’ counts, he’s got a really good approach.’’
Cordell put up promising numbers in the minors. Before crashing into an outfield wall and spraining his ankle in early August 2016, Cordell hit .264 with a team-high 19 home runs, 70 RBI and 12 stolen bases for the Rangers’ Class AA Frisco Rough Riders. He was dealt by the Rangers to the Brewers as the player to be named in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, and in 2017 he batted .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, 45 RBI and nine stolen bases for the Brewers’ Class AAA Colorado Springs team. He was limited to 68 games and didn’t play in the Sox’ organization because of a back strain.
“I’m seeing the ball really well and swinging at good pitches,’’ he said. “I’m still pulling off some pitches, not really trusting my eyes in what I’m seeing once in a while, but I’m pleased with my approach and how it’s coming together.’’
Cordell has played left and got work at third base, but center is his favorite position.
“We’re still going to continue to get him as comfortable as possible in center,’’ Renteria said. “The organization already viewed him as somebody that had quality, and we’re just getting to see it for the first time, putting our eyes on him.’’
In the spring of 2015, Cordell was told he would be the every-day shortstop at the Rangers’ high-A level, which shocked him. But it said something about his athleticism.
The Brewers played him at all three outfield positions as well as third base, but with only Adam Engel, a standout defender in center but a .166 hitter last season, as the incumbent, Cordell couldn’t find himself in a better situation trying to break into the big leagues.
His back is better, and he says he’s benefitting from the environment at Sox camp.
“The emphasis on morning meetings, the game the day before, little conversations here and there, they’re really focused on the elements of the games that win you ballgames,’’ Cordell said. “The little things often make championship teams better than the other teams, and I think that’s what they’re working toward. You can see it, and it’s pretty cool.’’
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