‘Falling low’ might be best thing for White Sox’ Moncada, Renteria says

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Yoan Moncada #10 of the White Sox is congratulated as he returns to the dugout after scoring on a single by Avisail Garcia #26 in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775137543

CLEVELAND – Yoan Moncada almost got through a game without striking out Thursday. After reaching base four times in his first five plate appearances in the White Sox’ 5-4 win in 11 innings against the Indians Thursday, he whiffed for the 206th time with 10 games to play with two runners in scoring position and two outs in the 10th inning against submariner Adam Cimber.

That put the talented 23-year-old switch-hitting Sox second baseman within 17 strikeouts of record holder Mark Reynolds (223) of the Rockies in 2009 and 16 short of Adam Dunn’s franchise mark set in 2012. It’s a dubious distinction Moncada could do without but Sox manager Rick Renteria won’t be going out of his way to prevent it by limiting Moncada’s at-bats down the stretch.

If it stings a little, so be it.

“Sometimes allowing somebody to fall as low as they can possibly fall might be the biggest thing they get to move them forward,’’ Renteria said Thursday. “Sometimes it’s, ‘We don’t want to hurt his feelings.’ No, by all means hurt his feelings. Let him appreciate the frustration of what that’s about so he can appreciate how important it is to have a certain approach, or mindset, or sense of urgency.’’

In an era when increasing strikeouts are shrugged off as no big deal, Renteria has no use for the whiff. Give him a productive out, he says.

You might not know it watching the Sox, who lead the majors with 1,485 this season.

“All it tells me is we have more work to do,’’ Renteria said.

A centerpiece of the Sox rebuild, Moncada had a productive night with a walk and three hits including a two-run double off the wall in the second against righty Josh Tomlin. The Sox won on Matt Davidson’s RBI single in the 11th that scored Yolmer Sanchez (double). Hector Santiago (6-3) pitched three scoreless innings of relief as the Sox won for the first time in nine games at Progressive Field.

James Shields allowed homers on consecutive pitches to Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley in the third but nothing else over six innings, and Omar Narvaez hit his ninth homer but the Sox bullpen gave up the lead in the eighth.

The Sox won for the first time after losing eight games at Progressive Field this season.

In his first full season, Moncada is one of eight players (12 times) to surpass 200 strikeouts, a list with some good current names on it like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Kris Bryant fanned 199 times as a rookie.

On the plus side, Moncada is not a chaser of bad pitches. He has a patient eye.

“The stats are the stats. I’m not sitting here going ‘I’m leading the league in strikeouts,’ ’’ he said last week. “I’m just trying to focus on getting better.’’

Renteria said Moncada might one day laugh off the huge K total. And he doesn’t care at all about the number, only Moncada’s approach.

“Is he adjusting to moments and situations,’’ Renteria said. “At times I see at, at times I don’t. It’s the inconsistency in which he’s approaching those two strike at-bats that I’m more concerned.

“He knows he has to do a better job of putting balls in play, in situations where he might create a run, have a productive out.

“He had some really good at-bats from both sides of the plate tonight.’’

Renteria touts Moncada’s 17 homers, 28 doubles, six triples, 11 stolen bases and 60 RBI. He has an improving .231/.309/.397 hitting line reaching base in 25 of his last 27 games, batting .294 in that stretch.

“Some people think this is a lost season for him but it is not,’’ Renteria said. “He is going to grow and come out of this.’’

And deal with the strikeout record if it occurs.

“Remember, there are different ways of motivating people,’’ Renteria said. “There’s a pat on the butt and there’s a kick on the butt. Maybe this will be a kick on the butt. But I’m not going to give up on that kid. No way. He has way too much talent. And one season is not making or breaking him.’’


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