MINNEAPOLIS — It’s a scene that never gets old, a moment that many dream of and few actually realize: A ballplayer walking into a major-league clubhouse as a major-league player for the first time.
White Sox catching prospect Seby Zavala didn’t see this coming some 12 hours before while he was circling the bases after hitting a home run for Class AAA Charlotte on Friday night. Around the same time, Sox catcher Welington Castillo took a foul tip off his mask and suffered a concussion, opening the door for Zavala’s major-league debut.
Zavala was relaxing in his apartment when Charlotte manager Mark Grudzielanek called to tell him something the catcher had -always dreamed of “pretty much my whole life.”
“ Just everything I put into to get to this point. It kind of all rushed through my head and memories,” Zavala said. “It was just a long road to get here.”
Zavala, 25, is the Sox’ 22nd ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. He was sharing time with Zack Collins, 24, a first-round draft pick and No. 12 prospect. Being on the 40-man roster made him the most workable choice. Besides, his game calling and pitcher-management skills are among his best assets.
“Well, here we go,” Renteria said. “He has shown a nice job of handling pitchers and working with them. Actually his very simple swing he’s been able to manage down there. Hopefully both sides of the ball. I’m sure he will be -energized and happy to be here.”
On the flip side was Castillo, the veteran who was splitting time with red-hot James McCann. Castillo fell out of favor when he got suspended 80 games last season for performance-enhancing drugs, then made things worse by hitting .176 with three homers in 26 games.
Castillo’s headgear cracked from the force of the foul tip in the eighth inning, and he came out of the game. During his postgame interview Renteria said concussion protocol wasn’t needed, but as the minutes past, Castillo became nauseous and experienced a headache.
As it was, Castillo’s days with the Sox were running out in the second year of a contract paying him $7.25 million this season. The Sox aren’t picking up his option next year in 2020, and with -Collins and Zavala locked in as next-up prospects nearing their time, a half-season-and-gone scenario for Castillo seemed to already be -getting traction.
The reaction on social media to Zavala’s arrival was overwhelmingly met with approval from fans eager to phase out the deadwood and ring in the new.
Zavala has some slug in his bat, but he was hitting .218 at Charlotte, well below his .267 career mark in five minor-league seasons. Injuries, including a quad issue in spring training and left wrist after that, might be responsible.
“Defensively I feel good. Offensively I started off a little rough,” he said. “I had a little [left] wrist injury again, came back healthy and feeling good. Just have to get some more at-bats and I feel like I’ll be feeling pretty good.”
The home run Friday, his sixth this year, was something to take with him on the early morning flight Saturday. He pinch hit and struck out to end the Sox’ 8-1 loss to the Twins on Saturday, and before long was sitting alongside McCann in the clubhouse already talking about tomorrow.
He will start and catch friend Dylan Covey on Sunday.
“I made sure he was in the bullpen today catching all those guys, getting ready to come into the ballgame,’’ Renteria said. “Get him reacquainted with the guys he’s caught in the spring.’’
“It hasn’t really hit me too much yet,” Zavala said. “I’m sure whenever my number is called, some emotions will come through. It will be fun.”