Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez are on the mend, veteran Ivan Nova was on the mound and the White Sox aren’t going anywhere in the standings. Not this season, anyway.
All of which made Monday night as good as any to give Yoan Moncada a try in the cleanup spot.
It could not have played to more rave reviews.
“We found our No. 4 hitter,” Jose Abreu, who bats third, said to Moncada in the dugout after Moncada belted a three-run homer in the Sox’ 9-1 victory against the struggling Marlins (36-62), a triumph that also featured an RBI double and two-run home run by Abreu and Nova’s first complete game since 2017.
The Sox (45-52), as manager Rick Renteria put it, are in the “discovery zone” right now. In other words, they’re finding out what the key pieces of their roster looking ahead to 2020 can do. And where they can do it.
Moncada, who has batted in all nine spots in his 301 career games (mostly in the leadoff and No. 2 spots), had 13 plate appearances batting fourth going in, all of them in 2017.
“Ricky told me yesterday that I was hitting fourth today, and I was ready,” Moncada said.
Moncada said he likes seeing how pitchers work Abreu, even though Moncada is a switch hitter and Abreu bats right, and Abreu likes the protection Moncada provides.
Somehow, the move to fourth felt like a promotion.
“If someone is happy that we finally found a cleanup hitter, it’s me,” Abreu said of his fellow Cuban. “Nothing that he does surprises me because I know all the talent he has. He has been working hard. He’s a great baseball player with a lot of talent, and I still think he can do more.’’
In his first at-bat against Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards, Moncada drove in Abreu with a single. Two at-bats later, the 24-year-old third baseman launched his career-high 18th homer to center field to give the Sox a 7-1 lead. Moncada is batting .304/.362/.530 with 56 RBI.
“This is a nice moment for us to put him in that situation and see how he does,” Renteria said. “He’s a guy that can hit anywhere from the first to the fifth [spot] in the lineup. He’s got speed; he’s got power; he can get on base. There’s a lot of things he can do. So maybe if we are able to get some other guys ahead of him on base, maybe he can drive in some runs and push us forward.
“We’re starting to see some of these guys in different positions, see what they’re going to be able to do. We’re in a place right now where we are still trying to win ballgames and put ourselves in discovery mode, see guys in different situations and see how we’re going to deal with them, if they grow within it.”
The Sox went deep four times. James McCann (12th) and Ryan Goins (second) hit back-to-back homers in the sixth against left-hander Jose Quijada to give Nova, breezing through his best night of the season, more than enough support.
“Woo! I think we found our No. 4 hitter,” Nova (5-9, 5.49 ERA) said.
NOTE: There is no timetable for a return for left fielder Eloy Jimenez, who suffered a bruised ulnar nerve in his right elbow in Kansas City last Tuesday. Jimenez said he is pain-free but hasn’t swung a bat and isn’t throwing.
Shortstop Tim Anderson, talking for the first time since the day after he suffered a high right ankle sprain June 25 in Boston, ran the bases and said he might return “maybe in a week or two. But I feel good. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
Anderson will need a minor-league rehab stint.