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White Sox’ Nick Madrigal taking his lumps in spring training

Madrigal says he’s not pressing. “I know a lot of people have asked me that because things haven’t been going the best out there, but I feel good,” he said.

White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal fields a ground ball before throwing out Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy at first during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP)
AP Photos

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nick Madrigal wore sunglasses and a cap Tuesday that covered a shiner above his eye, the result of a one-hop smash he dived for Monday in the White Sox’ Cactus League game against the Reds.

It kind of painted a picture of how the second baseman’s spring is going, not as well as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft had hoped. Madrigal is 6-for-27 with no walks or extra-base hits, good for a .222 batting average and .250 on-base percentage. He made one error on a ground ball going to his left, had one ground ball get under his glove for a hit going to his right, then had the unfortunate carom off his noggin Monday.

“Just one of those plays that I thought might have hit a little bad hop, got me in the face,” Madrigal said. “Just part of the game. I’m not mad or anything.”

Madrigal, of course, wants to impress. And he came to camp to win the Opening Day second base job. But he says he hasn’t been pressing.

“I know a lot of people have kind of asked me that because things haven’t been going the best out there, but I feel good,” he said. “It’s one of those things. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well; I just haven’t gotten the results I’ve wanted. I’m not doubting my game or anything like that. It’s just part of the game. Ultimately, I’ve got to be ready for Opening Day. That’s where it really counts.”

The chances of Opening Day happening in a Sox uniform might have been long even if Madrigal had a great spring. Leury Garcia is getting the Cactus League reps with the starting unit.

At Class AAA Charlotte last season, Madrigal batted .331/.398/.424 with one error in 29 games. He had hit .341/.400/.451 with no errors in 42 games at Class AA Birmingham before that. He doesn’t buy into the notion that the game is speeding up against major-league competition.

“Nah, I feel like I’ve played at a high level throughout my life,” Madrigal said. “From college [at Oregon State] to each level at pro ball. I feel like it does speed up, but I feel like I’m fully prepared for that. It’s just little things you have to be ready for. Know where you’re going with the ball. Hitters hit the ball a little bit harder. You have to prepare for all these things before the play happens, and I feel like I’ve been that way throughout my life, so it’s nothing totally new to me.”

Bench coach Joe McEwing, who oversees Sox infielders, downplayed Madrigal’s performance, citing a small sample size and perhaps some self-imposed pressure.

“Trying to impress, trying to do so much instead of going out and being himself,” McEwing said. “He’s very good at what he does. It’s a great learning experience, playing in this environment.

“We know what Nicky can do; he can help you win in so many ways. It’s just continuing to get the reps in and the at-bats and [adjusting to] the speed of the game, what it requires offensively and defensively — positioning and speed of balls coming off the bat and getting to know our own guys, as well. Nicky is gonna be fine.”

Madrigal said he expects to be back in action in a day or two after the swelling goes down above his eye. He is thankful the injury wasn’t worse.

“I feel good,” he said. “A little sore, but I feel good right now. Nothing serious right now. I’ve gone through some tests; everything looks good.

“I’m kind of bummed right now, but I’ll be good probably tomorrow or the next day.”