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Adam Engel celebrates in the dugout after scoring during the first inning of the team’s spring training baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Friday, March 1, 2019, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP)

White Sox’ Adam Engel is golden, but he knows he doesn’t have it made

SHARE White Sox’ Adam Engel is golden, but he knows he doesn’t have it made
SHARE White Sox’ Adam Engel is golden, but he knows he doesn’t have it made

TEMPE, Ariz. — You’re White Sox center fielder Adam Engel, and you were a Gold Glove finalist in the American League last season.

Your wife and parents were so happy for you that they threw a watch party for the announcement of the award.

For Engel, who became a highlight sensation after leaping over the wall to take three home runs away in a week last season, it was a special moment in his life, even though he didn’t win. The honor went to the Red Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr., but to be named a runner-up with the Angels’ Mike Trout was pretty nice, too.

‘‘It was an honor just to be nominated for a thing like that,’’ Engel said. ‘‘It was pretty cool just for me and my family. It was a fun week there.

‘‘It’s one of my goals to win a Gold Glove. It’s what I’ll go after every year.’’

To see Engel scale a wall is to admire his athleticism. And if he is not the best athlete on the Sox, he’s in the photo. Just Google his football videos at Loveland (Ohio) High on YouTube. The kid could not be tackled.

But Engel, 27, is wise enough to look around the Sox’ clubhouse and prospect lists to know his place is far from secure. For one thing, he’s a career .207/.260/.314 hitter. Playing full time for the first time last season, he batted .235/.279/.336. But it might be worth noting his batting average improved 69 points from 2017, the third-biggest jump in the majors behind the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts and the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Take it for what it’s worth.

Engel’s focus this spring is to use the middle of the field — his homer this spring was to right-center field and his triple Friday against the Angels to left-center — and to use his speed by bunting more.

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‘‘Adam had a mix of results on the offensive side, but he certainly improved from the year before,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘We’re looking for Adam to command the situational aspects of the game. He knows that. He’s been working on his swing over the winter, trying to make more contact, put the ball in play. Here’s a guy who runs very well, so take advantage of your speed.’’

Defensively, there’s not as much to improve on.

‘‘Defensively, he’s a tremendous center fielder,’’ Renteria said.

But Engel keeps working on that, too.

‘‘You’re always trying to get better,’’ he said. ‘‘I always try to stay as sharp as I can, working on footwork to help me come up and make quicker, stronger throws. Focusing on the ball all the way into the glove. Just small things.’’

Ask Engel which center fielders he looks up to, and there is a pause. He compares himself to the Royals’ Billy Hamilton, who also plays shallow and goes back on balls well. But he likes watching the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier, ‘‘one of the deepest guys who is really good at playing along the wall and coming in on balls.’’

‘‘You can learn from a lot of guys,’’ Engel said. ‘‘I love watching [Kiermaier] along the wall. I love watching Mike Trout; he is really smart out there. He knows when to be aggressive and when to play it safe. Everybody is good at something. You just have to watch and learn.’’

As for those prospect looking to take Engel’s job? Engel doesn’t flinch.

‘‘We have a lot of really good, young players, and a lot of them will play in the big leagues,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s part of my job to help them out . . . to be a good teammate. They’re trying to take my job, but that’s everywhere. Someone trying to take your job, it doesn’t matter who you are.’’

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