Bourjos trade opens door for White Sox’ Jacob May

SHARE Bourjos trade opens door for White Sox’ Jacob May
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Chicago White Sox’s Jacob May connects for a triple during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Jacob May got a text Tuesday morning from his uncle Carlos, the former White Sox who batted third in front of Dick Allen on those good Sox teams in the early 1970s.

“He was like, ‘I’m excited for you. Get used to the cold,’ ” May said.

The Sox’ trade Tuesday of outfielder Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash or a player to be named cleared room for May to be the Opening Day center fielder when the Sox host the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday. The forecast calls for rain and a high of 55 degrees, which probably means about 44 degrees by the time the seventh inning rolls around.

It will feel like 75 with sunny skies to May. He’s going to be a big-leaguer for the first time, just like Uncle Carlos and his grandfather Lee, who hit 354 homers for the Reds, Astros, Orioles and Royals from 1966 to ’82.

Lee called his grandson Tuesday to congratulate him. He, Carlos and Jacob’s father, Lee Jr. — a New York Mets first-round draft choice in 1986 — have been monitoring 26-year-old Jacob’s progress since the Sox selected him in the third round of the draft in 2013. Prospect Charlie Tilson’s foot injury opened a door, and May — who was 2-for-4, including an infield single, against the Royals on Tuesday — took advantage by hitting .349 with two walks, four stolen bases in five attempts, two doubles, three triples and a homer this spring. He struck out 14 times.

By letting go of Bourjos, 29, who was signed to a minor-league contract and would have been paid $1.2 million, the Sox look more like the rebuilding outfit they intend to be. For May, the time is now to see what he can do against major-league pitching and prove he can be part of the Sox future.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” he said.

That May led off and played center field and shortstop Tim Anderson batted second against the Royals only added to the goosebumps. May and Anderson did so often at Class A Winston-Salem in 2014, AA Birmingham in 2015 and AAA Charlotte in 2016.

“Oh, man. It’s so exciting,” May said. “Going about through this organization, it was 1 and 2, Tim Anderson and me, every step. It’s comfortable, it’s something I’m used to, and it would be an honor and dream come true to be in that leadoff spot. To be in the lineup, period, or on the roster is just an honor. I thank God every day I have the ability to walk into this locker room. It’s exciting and a blessing.”

May knows he has to stay healthy, and that has been a challenge. A bruised right pinky cut his 2014 season short, the 2015 season was interrupted when he crashed into Anderson and suffered a concussion, and his 2016 campaign was limited to 83 games because of abdominal injuries.

Manager Rick Renteria wouldn’t commit May to a regular leadoff role, not wanting to add any more pressure, and said the plan is to play him “five to seven” days a week. Even if he stays healthy, there will likely be rough patches.

“Jacob has done a very nice job,” Renteria said. “He’s played very, very well defensively and offensively. He can put the bat on the ball and do quite a few things. There’s still a learning curve. He might have a bump or bruise along the way, but hopefully we will be able to manage that and get him through and keep moving forward.”

With Melky Cabrera in left and Avisail Garcia in right, May will be called on to cover plenty of ground. Utility infielder Leury Garcia will play center when May doesn’t.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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