The White Sox’ Danny Mendick fills in for Tim Anderson with ‘gold star’ performance
Mendick is 9-for-21 while playing shortstop after Anderson got hurt. He has not made an error this season.
It’s hard to imagine the White Sox absorbing a bigger blow than losing shortstop Tim Anderson, which they did when he went down with a strained groin May 29.
It’s also hard to imagine the Sox getting a better contribution from 28-year-old Danny Mendick as Anderson’s fill-in.
After Anderson went down, Mendick took over at short and started a 9-for-21 streak with three RBI and five runs scored. In the Sox’ 6-5 victory Sunday against the Rays, Mendick was in Anderson’s leadoff spot and singled to start a four-run first inning against left-hander Ryan Yarbrough.
‘‘You can never replace [Anderson], but you try to step up,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘I’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity, one has presented itself and I go out there and do what I can. I know what I can bring, and I know I can help this team win.’’
A 22nd-round draft pick in 2015, Mendick is batting .318/.362/.455 with an .816 OPS, which ranks third on the Sox (albeit in only 48 plate appearances). Only Anderson (.896) and Andrew Vaughn (.839) are above Mendick in OPS.
Need more numbers to prove Mendick’s value thus far? His 140 weighted runs created plus is third on the team behind Anderson (163) and Vaughn (143), and he’s a 1.1 wins-above-replacement player, according to Baseball Reference. That ranks above fellow Sox infielders Yoan Moncada, Leury Garcia and Josh Harrison.
‘‘I’ve known it’s just a matter of proving it in the big leagues,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘An opportunity like this is all you can ask for.’’
Mendick doesn’t have Anderson’s range defensively, but he has played short, second base, third base and left field this season without making an error. His inning-ending play on Isaac Paredes’ soft grounder with the bases loaded in the Sox’ 3-2 victory Saturday against the Rays earned ‘‘a gold star’’ from manager Tony La Russa.
‘‘I knew [reliever Kendall Graveman] was going to throw a slider, and I had a feeling [Paredes] was going to be a little bit out in front,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘As soon as I saw his swing, I started moving in. It was a close play, but you practice those, right? It was nice to get it done.’’
The blip on Mendick’s week was tagging up and getting thrown out at second on what should have been a tying sacrifice fly for Yasmani Grandal in a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Mendick was out before Reese McGuire crossed the plate, and the Sox lost by one run.
‘‘I play aggressive,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘It was a mistake. It was a tough one, and you learn from it. You have to go from there. [If a] situation comes up again like that, hopefully in the playoffs, you make the right decision.’’
He said he apologized to La Russa after the game.
‘‘Sometimes you feel like you messed something up,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘You take accountability for it.’’
In addition to being able to play the infield and outfield, Mendick is the Sox’ emergency catcher. He also pitched a scoreless inning last season at Fenway Park. He has a .249/.306/.356 hitting line in 388 plate appearances in his career.
‘‘I want to play this game for as long as I can,’’ Mendick said. ‘‘This is a good start. [I can] show what I can do, and whatever my role turns into, I’ll give it my very best.’’
La Russa has started Mendick in every game but one since Anderson’s injury. When Anderson returns, La Russa might consider playing Mendick at second. Harrison (.181/.265/.276) and Garcia (.189/.199/.265) have played 22 and 27 games, respectively, at second with minimal production.
‘‘Danny’s playing real well, and that’s supposed to be the criteria, right?’’ La Russa said. ‘‘The more you play, the better you play.’’
NOTE: Multiple outlets reported former Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks. The Sox designated Keuchel for assignment last month after he began the season 2-5 with a 7.88 ERA.