Zack Collins ‘earned honor’ of Opening Day start, White Sox manager Tony La Russa says

The catcher went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter against the Angels.

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The White Sox’ Zack Collins (third from right) stands during the national anthem before Thursday night ‘s game in Anaheim, Calif.

The White Sox’ Zack Collins (third from right) stands during the national anthem before Thursday night ‘s game in Anaheim, Calif.

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Zack Collins’ father wants to tattoo the White Sox’ Opening Day lineup somewhere on his middle aged body, and not just because he thinks it’s the Sox’ year.

The left-handed hitting Collins got penciled into manager Tony La Russa’s starting lineup as the designated hitter in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Angels, the latest milestone in the Sox’ 2016 first-round draft choice’s slow-but-sure ascent to the major leagues.

Collins, who beat out veteran Jonathan Lucroy for the backup catcher’s job in spring training, made his debut in 2019 and owns a .167/.286/.314 career hitting line with three homers in 36 games, so he’s still an unproven commodity. But he maintained his patient approach at the plate and hit .295/.380/.523 with three homers and a double in 44 at-bats in spring training and showed enough needed improvements defensively to win a spot.

So Pat Collins’ excitement is understandable. When he first got called up in 2019 his dad got “a huge tatoo on his arm of me catching,” Collins said.

“That’s a dedicated dad,” La Russa said. “I certainly would encourage him to do it.”

La Russa said Collins will likely catch right-hander Lance Lynn in the third game of the season Saturday.

“I think the significance is it’s an earned honor,” La Russa said. “That’s why you create competition. Worst thing you can do — unless you’ve got a veteran who really knows how to prepare himself — is anoint guys and they don’t earn the respect from their teammates because they were gifted the job. Zack has not only caught the ball well, but he’s been a threat every game with the bat. We’re trying to win, he was the best option.”

Andrew Vaughn, all spring long looking like the starting DH, will have his starting debut delayed till Friday against lefty Andrew Heaney.

“Obviously, this is a huge honor, a huge accomplishment on my part,” Collins said. “I couldn’t be more excited for the season.”

An ode to Eloy

Jose Abreu had teammates and staff sign an Eloy Jimenez jersey that hung in the visitors dugout Thursday, and will likely stay in the dugout for as long as Jimenez is out after having surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

Abreu, who carried the jersey and Jimenez’ red batting gloves with him during pregame introductions, is keeping a red glove in his back pocket.

Jimenez’ timetable for a return is five to six months.

“We miss him but hopefully we will get him back even towards the end [of the season] and he’s going to be the freshest bat so he has to be ready,” Tim Anderson said. “I know he will be. But we can’t dwell on that too much. We have to keep pushing toward the ultimate goal.”

Final roster moves

Jimenez was placed on the 60-day IL before the game, and Adam Engel (hamstring) and Jace Fry (microdiscectomy) placed on the 10-day IL.

The contracts of veteran outfielder Billy Hamilton and Vaughn were purchased from the Schaumburg training facility, and lefty Nik Turley was outrighted to Schaumburg.

Left-hander Bernardo Flores was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals. Flores was the Sox’ No. 21-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline.

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