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White Sox: Five things to watch in spring training

Defense, clubhouse chemistry, the manager, Luis Robert and the TV are all worth keeping your eye on.

Rick Renteria has managed a lot of mediocre teams over the years. With high expectations for the White Sox this year, he’ll be facing tighter scrutiny.
Rick Renteria has managed a lot of mediocre teams over the years. With high expectations for the White Sox this season, he’ll be facing tighter scrutiny.
John Bazemore/AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All White Sox pitchers were in camp Monday, two days before the official reporting day for pitchers and catchers at Camelback Ranch.

Position players aren’t due until the Sox’ first official full-squad workout next Monday, but many are already here, including shortstop Tim Anderson, third baseman Yoan Moncada, utility player Leury Garcia, second-base prospect Nick Madrigal and outfielder Adam Engel.

Which leads us to five things to watch as the Sox get ready for the 2020 season:

Defense

The Sox always work on defense in spring training, but there will be a heightened sense of focus on it this season for a team aiming to contend after ranking 25th among 30 major-league teams in defensive runs saved last season, according to FanGraphs.

Anderson led the majors in errors despite playing in only 123 games, and after taking a significant leap forward offensively last season — he raised his batting average from .240 to .335 to win the American League batting title — look for him to shift more attention to routine grounders and throws.

Anderson is the sort who will use criticism as chip-on-the-shoulder motivation to get better. He has the range, athleticism and tools to be a Gold Glove-contending shortstop, according to general manager Rick Hahn.

Two offseasons ago, Anderson’s focus on his backhand produced visible results. Expect more of that work ethic as he aims to prove his naysayers wrong.

Clubhouse

Togetherness begins at spring training, and this group meshes a talented young core (Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer) with veterans (Jose Abreu, James McCann, Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Garcia) and in-betweeners (Anderson, Engel).

What’s more, there are six newcomers acquired via free agency or trade who will set foot in the Sox’ clubhouse for the first time (Grandal, Encarnacion, Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez, Steve Cishek, Nomar Mazara), as well as two rookies who haven’t played a game in the majors (Madrigal and Robert). The odds are against Madrigal making the Opening Day roster, but it’s possible he will lead the team in games played at second base.

While clubhouse chemistry, pecking orders and knowing your place doesn’t compute in victory projections, players will tell you those things matter a lot, and spring training is where the foundation is laid.

Manager

Rick Renteria’s career record as a manager is 274-373, which probably says much more about the talent he has had to work with in one rebuilding season with the Cubs and three with the Sox than about his managerial skill.

This is Renteria’s best team on paper, and he says it’s postseason material. That opens him up for much closer scrutiny now that he has a roster that should win, if healthy.

Every bunt and pitching change that backfires will incite the Renteria naysayers, but he welcomes the scrutiny.

‘‘Expectations don’t scare me,’’ Renteria said at SoxFest.

Center field

Prized rookie Robert looks to put a second consecutive healthy season together after enduring a rash of injuries at the lower levels of the minors. The Sox will need Robert’s fleet feet to cover a lot of ground between left fielder Jimenez and right fielder Mazara.

Seeing Robert’s talent on display and watching him get accustomed to the corner outfielders will be must-see stuff this spring.

Television

The Sox should be a better watch this season, and they will be easier to find with 161 of their 162 games scheduled on NBC Sports Chicago (156) and NBC Sports Chicago Plus (five). Fox Sports will televise the ‘‘Field of Dreams Game’’ against the Yankees on Aug. 13 in Dyersville, Iowa.

The Opening Day game March 26 against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field will be televised on NBC Sports Chicago.