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White Sox notebook: Yonder Alonso adjusting to life as a designated hitter

Catcher Seby Zavala made his first start at home, then was sent back down to Class AAA Charlotte.

Sox first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso
Yonder Alonso #17 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates his two run home run in the 3rd inning against the Cleveland Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field on May 30, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.   
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As the designated hitter, Yonder Alonso plays every position from the dugout.

Sometimes, he imagines that he’s standing in center field before the next pitch. Other times, he pretends to peer in at the plate from shortstop. And, of course, his mind visits first base, where he has spent the bulk of his 10-year career.

“That’s what I try to do: I try to mentally play defense,” Alonso said. “I watch the outfielders, I watch the infielders and I watch the game and try to pick up anything that I can to help my teammates out.”

Alonso, 32, is adjusting to his first season as a primary designated hitter. He started only three games at DH in his first nine seasons in the majors — a span of 951 games overall. This season, he has made 36 starts at DH, including Friday against the Indians, in addition to 17 starts at first base.

He has struggled at the plate but said he’s feeling more comfortable. Alonso likes playing defense but emphasized that he will fill any role to help the team.

“It’s just a totally new position,” Alonso said. “I’m trying to learn early in the year how I can have a routine that works for me in the sense where I can stay in the game defensively, even though I’m not playing defense, and then taking each at-bat like I would if I was playing defense.

“I’m not trying to overthink things too much because you have so much more time to think about things. I think I’ve been getting better and better every day.”

Alonso is hitting .232 (13-for-56) with two doubles, one home run and eight RBI in 17 games at first and .169 (22-for-130) with four doubles, six homers and 17 RBI in 37 games as a DH.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria encouraged Alonso to keep it simple.

“I think DH-ing is a different role,” Renteria said. “And I will also say this: Hitting is hitting. Good hitters usually find their place. Hopefully, he will continue to get more and more comfortable in the box.”

Home debut, then back to minors

Rookie catcher Seby Zavala, who was optioned to Class AAA Charlotte after the game, made his first start on the South Side a week after joining the Sox.

The San Diego State product leaned on veteran James McCann for advice while with the big-league club.

Zavala, 25, said the first few days in the majors were a whirlwind, but he eventually settled in.

“McCann said it’s not going to be right away, I’m not going to learn everything right away,” Zavala said.

“If I made any mistakes, I want to learn from them and not let them happen again. My job is to be there for the pitchers.”

Ready to return

With Zavala heading back to the minors, the Sox will make a corresponding roster move Saturday and are expected to activate Welington Castillo.

Castillo caught a bullpen session and is likely to return from the seven-day concussion list.

He was sidelined after taking a foul tip off his catcher’s mask last Friday.