GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox exhaled when an MRI on Monday showed nothing worse than a hip pointer for outfielder Andrew Vaughn. They project him to return in one to two weeks, depending on how quickly his symptoms resolve.
“We feared the worst,” manager Tony La Russa said.
As it turns out, Vaughn will have 10 days to be ready for the opener on April 8 at Detroit, which more than likely isn’t enough.
“What the doctor said was, ‘Let’s see when the pain leaves,’ ’’ La Russa said. “If it’s something maybe sore for him, he could practice, but it’s got to be something you could handle if you could get out.
“We just have to be patient. It will be April soon. We want him to get it well.”
When Vaughn was taken off the field on a cart Sunday after making a diving catch in right-center field in a Cactus League game against the Dodgers, a worse outcome was feared. The Sox lost left fielder Eloy Jimenez to a torn pectoral muscle in a game almost a year to date, and center fielder Luis Robert tore a hip flexor in May.
After catching Hanser Alberto’s liner in the gap Sunday, Vaughn threw the ball back into the infield from his knees and stood up. A few moments later, he was rolled off the field with assistant trainer Josh Fallin.
For just a few hot hours while Vaughn’s status was unknown, free-agent right fielder Michael Conforto’s name resurfaced in speculation about the Sox going outside the organization to fortify right field, but the team seems prepared to go with the players they have.
“Those are probably the fans who are not White Sox fans,” La Russa said. “White Sox fans know there are guys in this camp who can handle it.”
Vaughn is pegged to split time between right field, left field, first base and designated hitter this season. Left-handed hitting Gavin Sheets, switch-hitting super utility Leury Garcia and former Gold Glove candidate Adam Engel also are in the right-field mix. Prospect Micker Adolfo is out of minor-league options.
Left-handed-hitting Sheets started in right field Monday in the Sox’ Cactus League game against the Padres. Sheets — like Vaughn, a converted first baseman — played 13 games in right field as a rookie last season.
“We’ve got, counting today, eight games,” said La Russa, pulling out a sheet of paper with upcoming lineups mapped out. “There’s time for the outfield work.
“We’ve got a formula.”
With a $185 million payroll ranking seventh in the majors — behind the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Padres and Red Sox — and so far unable to move Craig Kimbrel’s $16 million salary, the Sox appear content with what they have, expecting to upgrade during the season where necessary. General manager Rick Hahn said he doesn’t want to take developmental at-bats away from Vaughn and Sheets, and La Russa said the lineup as constructed packs enough punch.
“They can play any game,” he said of his lineup featuring a nucleus of Tim Anderson, Robert, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Jimenez and Yoan Moncada. “You got speed, guys who can handle the bat, we’ve got power, we have switch-hitters.”
For a while, they won’t have Vaughn, who was in the Rookie of the Year conversation during the first half of last season before finishing with a .235/.309/.396 hitting line, 15 homers and 48 RBI. He was 7-for-15 with a home run this spring.
How long he’ll be out remains to be seen. In any event, the Sox considered Monday’s news about Vaughn, who was unavailable, good news.
“Real good,” La Russa said.