Being healthy, staying healthy all that matters to White Sox’ Yoan Moncada
Third baseman and possible cleanup man Moncada says he’s ready for season to start right now.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are scrappy, noisy, gritty-gutty types who make their mark, and then there’s the quiet smooth of third baseman Yoan Moncada.
“Chill” comes to mind watching Moncada go about his day. Big, strong, fast and talented, he looks like that guy whose pulse is low and steady whether he’s walking to the clubhouse kitchen for an omelette or standing in the batter’s box facing Shane Bieber.
Which begs a question. Does anything ever upset you, Yoan?
“As long as you don’t mess around with me, I don’t care,” Moncada said in an interview with the Sun-Times. “If you do, things change.”
The coronavirus messed with Moncada last season, and now he has a score to settle. He said he’s feeling completely normal again after playing through effects of the virus, which drained his strength. Exit velocities off his bat were down, and Moncada didn’t attempt a stolen base.
“I don’t have any lingering issues, I have no concerns health-wise,” Moncada said through translator Billy Russo. “I feel very, very good and strong.”
So things are probably about to change. That .225/.320/.385 hitting line with six homers in 52 games in 2020, which followed .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers and 79 RBI in 2019, when he was arguably the Sox’ best player, will be on his Baseball Reference page forever. There won’t be an asterisk by 2020, but it might always be known as an aberration.
“I don’t really pay attention to the stats or those numbers, especially last year’s numbers,” Moncada said. “Everybody knows how difficult it was and the problems I had. It was tough. But you learn from the past. That situation I went through put me in a better position for this year. To be more prepared for different things. One of the reasons I’m in a better position now is because of what I experienced. Hopefully, with God’s grace, I will be able to prove and show what I can do.”
The switch-hitting Moncada is having a good spring. Batting fourth on most days in new manager Tony La Russa’s lineups, Moncada (.306) reached base for the 13th consecutive game with a double off the right-field wall in the first inning.
He said he’s ready for the season to begin right now. His goal?
“Stay healthy,” he said.
To underscore this, Moncada emphasized staying healthy throughout the conversation. Keeping his hamstrings issue-free has been a point of emphasis since he missed three weeks with a strain in 2019, when he put up the aforementioned numbers in 132 games.
“In my years in the majors, something has always bothered me. I haven’t had a full season without any problems,” Moncada said. “There is always something. So the key is to stay healthy, and if I do, I will be able to show what I can do.”
Moncada mainly had been a top-of-the-order hitter until now. La Russa said he likes a switch-hitter batting fourth, and Moncada strikes him as one who will produce more if asked to produce more.
“He has the ability to rise to the occasion, and that’s what you look for in the middle of the lineup,” La Russa said.
Moncada isn’t making a big deal of batting cleanup, a spot he has been slotted in 32 times in his career. He said he’s open to hitting anywhere, but he’s comfortable there.
“I like that slot,” he said.
The Sox’ lineup looks deep, so hitting fourth won’t carry inordinate weight.
“Our lineup is a powerful lineup, one that will scare a lot of people,” Moncada said. “We’re second to none around the league. We’re going to do some damage.
“Everybody is working toward the common goal of the postseason and of course to win a World Series. This team has a lot of energy, and we need to stay healthy to sustain that energy through the whole season and into the postseason. That’s when you’ll really need it. We know if we stay healthy, we have a chance to win it all.”