PHOENIX — Tim Anderson was a team player when the White Sox were in the running for Manny Machado at the start of camp. He bit his tongue and said he would welcome him with open arms, though there was a good chance Machado would replace him as the Sox’ starting shortstop.
Luckily for Anderson, the Sox couldn’t get the deal done. When Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres last month, Anderson finally could breathe a sigh of relief.
But Anderson isn’t using the Sox’ pursuit of Machado as motivation. He doesn’t think he has anything to prove.
‘‘I don’t care about what other people have to say, other people’s opinions about [why] we didn’t get him, you know?’’ Anderson said Monday. ‘‘I know where I am. I know what I need to do to get better, and I know what I need to try to make this team better.’’
Anderson wants to be the hero the Sox need this season, and he’s confident he’s becoming a reliable shortstop.
‘‘I’m the guy that I want the pitchers to want behind them,’’ he said. ‘‘Go out and play hard. I put it all on the line.’’
But Anderson has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to earn the trust of Sox pitchers. His fielding has been a work in progress since he was promoted to the Sox in 2016. He committed 28 errors in 2017 and 20 last season, half of them in the first 51 games.
Anderson said he thinks he has improved this spring. He feels more focused.
‘‘I feel like I’ve done a good job this spring of trying to take control of my work and knowing what I’m doing,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m learning the game a lot more, I’m maturing a lot more and I’m getting it. I’m in a good spot heading into the season.’’
Manager Rick Renteria said he wants to see Anderson take the next step.
‘‘What he’s done before and more,’’ Renteria said of his expectations for Anderson. ‘‘[I want him to] continue to improve in defensive situations, continue to maintain a consistent approach in the field.’’
Anderson has shown some growth at the plate, too. He became the first shortstop in Sox history with 20 or more home runs and 20 or more stolen bases in a season in 2018. And that offensive success has carried over to the Cactus League, where he’s hitting .444/.464/.761.
‘‘Body feels good,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Feel like I’ve been having some good at-bats. . . . Just try to have that same mentality. Just continue to go out and work.’’
Anderson also is evolving into a leader in the clubhouse. He said he likes to lead by example, and Renteria has taken notice.
‘‘He’s getting more and more comfortable in his own skin, in being able to vocalize and express himself with his teammates,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘Timmy’s one of those guys that goes about his business pretty routinely. . . . He’s starting to open up a little bit. It’ll be nice to see how he evolves as a leader in our clubhouse.’’