DETROIT — The future arrived for Jake Burger on Friday night.
The White Sox called up the third baseman days after he was selected for the MLB Futures Game during All-Star Week and started him in their 8-2 victory over the Tigers, their fifth win in a row.
The Futures Game might have to wait.
Designated hitter Yermin Mercedes was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, a somewhat surprising move considering he was back-page news for the first month-and-a-half of the season. But general manager Rick Hahn said Mercedes’ limitations as a designated hitter only and drastic drop in production were factors in the decision.
“We needed someone in Chicago like Jake who has more positional versatility than we were getting from Yermin,” Hahn said.
Especially with regular third baseman Yoan Moncada likely out for the series with a bruised right hand.
“[Mercedes] showed signs of starting to come out of this, but given where we’re at and having to figure out a way to get through the weekend here, at least in Detroit, it made more sense to have Jake on the active roster than Yermin,” Hahn said. “We fully expect we will see him again at some point.”
Burger reached on an error and had two hits, including a pop fly that Daz Cameron lost in the lights in the seventh inning.
“I’m still taking it in because it’s a special night,” Burger said after the game. “I’m going to say I hit a ball off the top of the wall — I just missed a home run. In this day and age, my grandkids will probably go back and find the video like, ‘You’re lying, Grandpa.’ It was special. It was cool.”
Yasmani Grandal had an RBI single in the first and scored on Brian Goodwin’s single before leaving the game with tightness in his left calf. Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets stayed hot with homers in a five-run ninth that allowed closer Liam Hendriks to sit down in the bullpen. Matt Foster mopped up after Codi Heuer and Jose Ruiz pitched scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.
Sheets, called up from Charlotte on Tuesday, is the first Sox player to get a hit and RBI in each of his first four games. Vaughn made a diving catch in left field.
Lance Lynn (8-3, 2.02 ERA) struck out nine in six innings of one-run ball. He walked five and needed 117 pitches to get through it, holding the Tigers to 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Burger’s arrival follows years of major setbacks and struggles. The 11th pick in the 2017 draft suffered two left Achilles injuries and a bruised heel and battled anxiety and depression but climbed his way back to being a .322/.368/.596 hitter with 10 homers and a .964 OPS at Triple-A Charlotte this season. He has yet to play a full season in the minors.
In his last 12 games there, Burger hit .471/.518/843.
“It’s truly cool and kind of a surreal feeling,” he said. “I’m still numb, you know?”
Mercedes, the AL Rookie of the Month in April, had hit .271/.328/.404 with seven homers and 37 RBI — tied for second with Grandal behind Jose Abreu (55) among team RBI leaders. Hahn said Mercedes took the demotion well, will get to catch at Charlotte and should be back at some point in 2021. If Grandal’s injury requires a stint on the injured list, Seby Zavala would be -summoned from Charlotte.
Mercedes was 4-for-11 with three RBI in his last four games, but he batted .159/.221/.190 with no homers in June. Pitchers adjusted to Mercedes after his hot start, manager Tony La Russa said, and Mercedes in turn was unable to counter. The early contribution won’t be forgotten, however.
“We’re not sitting here where we are in the standings without what Yermin did in April,” Hahn said.