White Sox’ Yoan Moncada is getting his groove back

The third baseman was weaker last year, and it affected his rhythm at the plate. Now he feels much stronger.

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“Last year was a very difficult year,” White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada said. “Not just because of the virus but because I wasn’t able to produce at the level I’m used to.”

“Last year was a very difficult year,” White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada said. “Not just because of the virus but because I wasn’t able to produce at the level I’m used to.”

Ross D. Franklin/AP

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Yoan Moncada battled fatigue issues due to the aftereffects of the coronavirus last season. And he fought to find his rhythm at the plate.

After breaking out with a .315/.367/.548 slash line, 25 home runs and a .915 OPS in 2019, Moncada regressed to .225/.320/.385 with a .705 OPS in 2020. His exit velocities were down, he did not attempt a stolen base after stealing 10 bags in 2019 and everyone is giving him a mulligan.

“Last year was a very difficult year,” Moncada said Wednesday. “Not just because of the virus, but because I wasn’t able to produce at the level I’m used to. It had to do with my rhythm. I didn’t get it throughout last season. This year, I’m in a better rhythm. That’s something I’m going to be able to maintain throughout the season.”

Feeling weaker is the likely reason Moncada lost it. The good news is he feels stronger now.

“I wasn’t reacting the way I used to at home plate, and that was because my body felt tired,” he said. “And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tried everything, but I couldn’t find a solution for that. This year, the difference is that my body feels good.”

Good signs from Robert

Luis Robert’s production plummeted drastically in September, but he rallied late just in time for the playoffs and is picking up where he left off in October, hitting coach Frank Menechino said.

“He worked his tail off, made some adjustments in his setup, made some adjustments with pitch recognition,” Menechino said. “He’s taking a lot more balls right now. He’s really got his setup and approach working.”

Robert ripped a double into the left-field corner and reached on an RBI single against the Royals. In his first game Monday against the Angels, he worked the count to 3-2 and drove a fastball on the inner half off the left-center-field wall.

“That’s really encouraging, how he never got off the fastball and was ready to hit every pitch, not kinda guessing and figuring out what the pitcher was going to do to him,’’ Menechino said. ‘‘He had conviction in his approach, and you guys will see it during the spring, man. It’s a lot better.”

Aches and pains

Outfielder Adam Engel (ankle) told manager Tony La Russa he feels much improved.

“I don’t know if he plays tomorrow or the next day, but he’s feeling better,” La Russa said.

Yasmani Grandal, who twisted his right knee a week ago, “is getting extra care, then going very carefully because it’s early in the camp,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But he’s making progress every day. I do not have a target [for a return].’’

This and that

Right-hander Michael Kopech followed lefty Garrett Crochet during live batting practice, a 1-2 combination of high velocity that left hitters around the cage, tongue in cheek, saying, “Do you want to hit?”

† Kopech and Crochet are viewed as future starters who will pitch in relief this season. La Russa called prospects Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever “future rotation fixtures” who will stay stretched out and serve as starting depth in 2021.

† Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who had shoulder surgery after the season, is slated for his first start Monday, La Russa said.

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