ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When he batted .250/.324/.506 with 11 homers in 54 games as a rookie last season, Gavin Sheets made an impression, and it was enough for White Sox management to trust him as a needed left-handed power-hitting piece in the 2022 lineup.
Sheets was supposed to blend in with the lineup core of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal and Eloy Jimenez, but the struggles or absence of four of them — switch-hitters Moncada and Grandal have given little from the left side against right-handed pitching — has cast a brighter light on Sheets’ .206./273/.328 hitting line.
“I need to put some consistent at-bats together,” Sheets told the Sun-Times.
Sheets made adjustments working in the hitting cage recently. He studied video from last season and detected differences in his setup and in the moves he was making. The big thing, he said, is how pitchers, armed with expanded scouting reports on him, adjusted.
“It’s tough, they’re pitching me a little differently, I have to adjust to that,” he said. “It’s a game of adjustments.”
The Sox were questioned for not going outside the organization for an impact left-handed bat in the offseason, and as the team slogs around the bottom of numerous offensive categories, the questions remain. Sheets’ showing in 2021, the depth of the Sox’ lineup around him and the desire to encourage his development were reasons they didn’t.
Sheets’ .601 OPS is .229 lower than last season.
“I proved I can do damage on the fastball last year,” he said.
“Not getting as many fastballs, so it’s about picking out off-speed pitches you can do damage with. Just trying to be aggressive in the zone. I can get stuck sometimes when I get too passive.”
A first baseman by trade, Sheets has played in 16 games in right field, three in left field and nine at first base. He has been the designated hitter 13 times but was out of the lineup Sunday against a left-handed starter.
A day after hitting a game-winning homer, Jake Burger doubled twice, including a ground-rule shot that bounced over the center-field fence with the bases loaded.
“He’s a hungry hitter,” manager Tony La Russa said.
“Being slow and smooth and controlling my energy, my emotion at the plate coming up with the bases loaded,” Burger said.
“I’ve been smiling a ton, just having fun. Like I always say, no matter where I’m at I’m going to have fun and compete. That’s what I’m trying to do day in and day out.”
Burger had two of the Sox’ season-high 16 hits.
Right-hander Lance Lynn (knee) is slated for his third start for Charlotte on a rehab assignment Wednesday.
“Depends on how he feels, but there’s a chance [a call-up could follow],” La Russa said.
The earliest possibility for Lynn’s first start would be June 13 at Detroit.
— Jimenez played his first rehab game in left field at Charlotte after DHing his first four. Jimenez came out of his first game with soreness in his right hamstring area, and his return doesn’t appear imminent.
“They don’t feel his legs are ready yet,” La Russa said.
— Anderson (groin) is getting daily treatment while traveling with the team and gradually increasing his work. He did some running Saturday and Sunday.
The Sox are off Monday. Michael Kopech (Tuesday), Johnny Cueto (Wednesday) and Dylan Cease (Thursday) are the probable starters for the Dodgers series at Guaranteed Rate Field.