Left fielder Yermin Mercedes putting 2021 season behind him

“Last year is past, this is a new year and you keep doing your best and be ready to do anything,” said Mercedes, who is no longer catching.

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Yermin Mercedes is transitioning to the outfield. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Say hello to Yermin Mercedes, left fielder.

The White Sox officially have moved past Mercedes, catcher.

‘‘Maybe for more opportunities,’’ Mercedes said Sunday. ‘‘They need my bat.’’

Mercedes provided a needed bat at the beginning of 2021 as the Sox’ designated hitter when he started the season with eight hits in a row and was the American League Rookie of the Month for April. It was a major boost after Eloy Jimenez tore a pectoral muscle in spring training. Mercedes, who batted .415 with five home runs in the first month, became an instant star and fan favorite.

By June, however, he was struggling with a .159 average for the month and had arrived late to the ballpark more than once. By July, his frustration had caused him to quit baseball — but only for a day.

‘‘Up, down, up, down,’’ Mercedes said of his 2021 season. ‘‘In a lot of ways, it was a great year.’’

In a lot of ways, it wasn’t.

‘‘But last year is past, this is a new year and you keep doing your best and be ready to do anything,’’ he said.

No one expects Mercedes to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster, but he left enough of an imprint last season that eyes will be on him at Triple-A Charlotte.

‘‘Ruling out the catching thing makes it harder,’’ manager Tony La Russa said.

Catching just wasn’t in the cards. Mercedes threw well but was lacking in other responsibilities. He admitted staying locked in on every pitch was a challenge.

‘‘At another position, you can relax a little bit,’’ he said. ‘‘You can’t take 0-for-4 to your catching and lose your focus. That’s not good because the pitcher has to always be comfortable with you. That’s a hard position.’’

La Russa said Mercedes is athletic enough to make the transition to a new one. As for the hullabaloo over La Russa benching Mercedes for missing a 3-0 take sign and hitting a homer last season, La Russa said it has come up between them in a good-natured way.

‘‘He gave me that cute little smile,’’ La Russa said, grinning. ‘‘He’s a cute guy.’’

‘‘Yeah, we’re good,’’ Mercedes said. ‘‘All the time, we’re good. I was never mad with him, and he was never mad with me.’’

This and that

Reliever Joe Kelly, who won’t make the Opening Day roster as he slow-rolls his preparation for the season after dealing with a nerve issue in his right (throwing) elbow with the Dodgers late last season, will throw his first bullpen session Monday.

La Russa said Kelly was throwing free and easy on flat ground Sunday.

‘‘He’s just letting it out there,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘Knock on wood.’’

• Right-hander Lucas Giolito and left-hander Dallas Keuchel are scheduled for three innings each Tuesday against the Brewers, with Giolito getting the start.

• Infielder Brandon Bossard, the son of famed Sox groundskeeper Roger, was a minor-league extra for the game at Salt River Fields but didn’t play.

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