Slimmed-down Daniel Palka wants to fit in White Sox’ outfield
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — By hitting 26 home runs and having a sense of humor through the ups and downs of his rookie season, Daniel Palka became a fun storyline during the White Sox’ 100-loss season in 2018.
But Palka knew his defense was lacking, so he lost 18 pounds during the offseason with the hope of becoming better in 2019.
‘‘For me to be able to contribute to the team, I need to be playing defense,’’ Palka, 27, said Saturday. ‘‘I need to be in the outfield every day and playing a position.’’
Palka said he likes the early returns in camp. How does he feel different from a year ago?
‘‘I mean, I feel like the same stud I was before,’’ he deadpanned before taking a more serious tone. ‘‘It’s night and day. We did a lot of reps. The first day we got out there with [outfield coach Daryl Boston], everything was smooth. Defense is one of those things where you have to put in the work. Hitting is fun, but defense is work. It’s the first year I did that, so I’m pretty confident.’’
Palka also wants to improve his .240/.294/.484 hitting line.
‘‘Just need to have a cleaner approach and have better at-bats more consistently,’’ he said.
Infielder Yoan Moncada went to work two days before the first full-squad workout. He is looking to cut down on his 217 strikeouts of last season.
‘‘My message for him is, ‘Forget last year,’ ’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘ ‘This is a new year. You knew over the winter what you’re working on. You know how you’re going to approach this coming season. Stay focused and maintain the routine and understand the work you’re doing and go play the games.’ ’’
Moncada, who played second base last season, took some ground balls at third. The Sox have been talking about using him at the hot corner in 2019, and that will become a greater possibility if free agent Manny Machado signs with another team.
Not so fast
Right-hander Michael Kopech, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that will sideline him all season, scaled back a bit after saying he felt good enough to pitch this season. He is playing catch and already champing at the bit.
‘‘I feel great,’’ he said. ‘‘I know I made a couple of comments earlier this week that I could maybe pitch if I needed to. That probably isn’t realistic. But I do feel really good right now.’’
Outfielder Brandon Guyer, 33, has a chance to make the team after signing a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Guyer, who has a .274/.376/.449 career hitting line against lefties, was better in the second half last season for the Indians.
‘‘In 2017 I had wrist surgery, and the first half of last year I fought through good days and bad days,’’ he said. ‘‘But in the second half, man, I felt like a new guy and had my normal numbers. Once the wrist finally healed, I felt like the old player I was.’’
After hitting .167 in the first half, Guyer batted .256/.333/.453 in the last three months. He’ll make $1.6 million if he makes the Sox.