White Sox’ Yoan Moncada ready and willing to adjust
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BALTIMORE — Yoan Moncada is ready to expand his horizons.
The White Sox’ 23-year-old Cuban second baseman said he wants to do his media interviews next season in English.
“I want to learn in the offseason using Rosetta Stone,” Moncada said in plain English. “I am going to try to speak some English next season.
“It’s important because people will know you are trying to adjust, to be part of their society,” Moncada said through a translator. “Just to be a better person.’’
Moncada also said he would be willing to play third base, should first-round draft pick Nick Madrigal work his way into the lineup as a second baseman down the road. Moncada made his major-league debut at third with the Red Sox in 2016, and while such a move hasn’t been discussed publicly — Madrigal hasn’t played above Class A yet, and he will get a look at shortstop and perhaps third — it’s probably good to know Moncada is willing to go with the flow.
“If they approach me and ask me to play another position, I will do it,’’ he said through a translator. “Whatever the team wants me to do.’’
It has been quite the first full season for Moncada. He has put together a solid September, but he went 0-for-5 and struck out for the 199th, 200th and 201st times in the Sox’ 8-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, a feat he’ll have to wear forever but one that won’t keep him awake at night, he said.
“I don’t like to dwell on it,’’ he said of being one of seven players in baseball history with 200 or more strikeouts. “The stats are the stats. I’m not sitting here going, ‘I’m leading the league in strikeouts.’ I’m trying to focus on improving and getting better. That’s it.’’
Moncada also knows his strikeout frequency dropped in the last 30 days, during a stretch that has seen him reach base 23 times in 24 games while batting .270, well above his season average of .226. His 26 doubles, 17 homers and six triples help offset the monster strikeout numbers Moncada said he wants to address next season.
“That’s something that was very important for me, so it’s good to see [the frequency] coming down as we get to the end of the year,’’ he said.
Elevating his hands has helped, he said, making his swing “freer” and allowing him to use the hands better.
“Every staff member has had conversations with him about different aspects of his game,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “We realize he’s a talented young man but also get him to focus and do the necessary things to have success. To have a sense of urgency in everything he does, at the plate and in the field.’’
Moncada made one of three questionable defensive plays or decisions by the Sox in the first inning that helped the Orioles score five runs against Lucas Giolito (six runs, four earned), who deserved better after grinding through six innings.
First baseman Matt Davidson muffed a routine grounder, catcher Welington Castillo picked up a sacrifice bunt and threw late trying to catch Cedric Mullins off second and Moncada, playing in, threw late to home trying to cut down a run when he should have probably taken an out at first.
“It happens,” Giolito said. “We just didn’t come out in the first inning ready to play defense, myself included. Next thing you know they have five runs.”
The Orioles (43-106) salvaged a victory in the three-game series and halted a three-game winning streak for the Sox (59-90).
It wasn’t Moncada’s only rough day of this his first full season, but all said and done he has had increasingly better ones of late. He figures to shake this one off, hear from Renteria and staff about what went wrong and turn the page to the final two weeks of the season.
“I’ve been working a lot, all season, trying to find ways to improve,’’ he said. “The results in the last month have been better. It’s a result of the work I’ve put in.
“I want to finish strong and use it as a [springboard] for next season.’’