White Sox rout Orioles, take a closer look at catcher Seby Zavala

The rookie will catch three of the Sox’ last four games before the All-Star break.

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Gavin Sheets #32 of the White Sox celebrates with Seby Zavala #44 after hitting a home run in the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 09, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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BALTIMORE — No. 1 catcher Yasmani Grandal is recovering from knee surgery, so it feels like No. 2 Zack Collins’ time to step up.

Perhaps Collins will after the All-Star break that follows this weekend’s series against the struggling Orioles. But at least for now, manager Tony La Russa wants to get recent Triple-A Charlotte call-up Seby Zavala accustomed to each of the White Sox’ starting pitchers.

He likes what he has seen so far.

“Very impressive, he has a real good presence back there,” La Russa said of the way Zavala, who caught seven innings of one-run ball from Dallas Keuchel in the Sox’ 12-1 rout of the Orioles on Friday, has handled pitchers.

Zavala caught All-Star Lance Lynn for six innings of one-run ball against the Twins on Wednesday.

“He sticks the ball; he has a lot of confidence; he blocks,” La Russa said. “The best moment in the dugout was when he got a [double]. And he put down a bunt on a 97 [mph pitch]. Sound player defensively, and he can get base hits in the big leagues, too. He’ll hold the fort down till we get Yas back.”

Collins wants to catch more, but he’ll get only one game in this series — when Lucas Giolito starts Saturday. Giolito and Carlos Rodon have had good success with Collins.

Zavala will get Dylan Cease on Sunday.

“Zavala needs the exposure,” La Russa said. “He’s everything the organization says he is, a very smart handler of the pitcher, a good feel for the fingers to put down. He just has to get to know the guys.”

Collins, who bats left, hasn’t produced offensively to his own liking, batting .236/.329/.390 with three home runs in 45 games.

If Zavala is a good option defensively, he’ll get plenty of work. The Sox (52-35) might feel comfortable with him in tandem with Collins rather than exploring trade possibilities before Grandal’s expected return late in the season.

“The last two weeks, I’ve been swinging it good [at Charlotte],” Zavala said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot to help the team out here.”

Collins is eager to take on a heavier workload and is confident he would hit better with more regular at-bats.

“I definitely didn’t need it,” he said of getting consecutive games off. “I feel like I could catch every game of the season if I really wanted to. Whenever they put me in there, I guess. I don’t write the lineup; I just play.”

Collins and Zavala played and roomed together for years in the minors.

“He knows what he’s doing back there,” Collins said. “He’s a mature catcher. He’s very calm, doesn’t get riled up.”

The Sox’ bats got riled up to the tune of 15 hits against Orioles starter Jose Lopez (2-12) and four relievers. Tim Anderson doubled in two runs and scored three, Jose Abreu singled, doubled, walked twice and drove in three runs and rookie Gavin Sheets, playing miles from the town he grew up in, homered with his family — including his father, former major-leaguer Larry Sheets — in the first row behind the plate.

Andrew Vaughn had three hits, including a double, and Adam Engel (four RBI) hit a three-run homer in the ninth.

Keuchel allowed one walk and seven hits and struck out three.

“It doesn’t get much better than Yas; we’re going to miss him,” Keuchel said. “But the way [Zavala] presents pitches and has a great setup and is talking to the umpire for a young guy, he knows what he’s doing. We love him back there. I know Lance likes Seby back there, as well.”

Michael Kopech struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth, throwing 12 of his 15 pitches for strikes.

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