Sox give Tim Anderson his second choice

Itching for spot in lineup, Anderson moves over to 2B — for one night, at least

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Tim Anderson

Boston Red Sox’s David Hamilton slides safely back to second on a pickoff attempt by Chicago White Sox’s Lucas Giolito to Tim Anderson during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, June 23, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: CXS110

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

On his 30th birthday Friday, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson started his first major-league game at second base.

It was a mixed bag.

Anderson lifted an RBI sacrifice fly to center in the third inning for the Sox’ lone run. But it came after a pickoff throw kicked off his glove for a two-base, run-scoring error in the top half of the frame in an eventual 3-1 loss to the Red Sox.

“I just didn’t see it, didn’t pick it up,” Ander-son said after the game, downplaying his new position being a factor. “I feel comfortable for the most part.”

Elvis Andrus also wasn’t sharp at shortstop. His fielding error set up Rafael Devers’ two-run homer off starter Lucas Giolito in the fourth. That blast and two unearned runs were enough to top the Sox, who dropped 13 games below .500 and seven back of the division-leading Twins. Giolito (5-5) struck out 10 in six innings but took the loss.

“Defense today wasn’t good,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to hit.”

The decision to have Anderson play second was prompted by Anderson himself after the initial lineup had him set to miss his fifth consecutive start with a sore right shoulder. He tested his shoulder before the game, throwing in the infield for the first time since he was hurt last Saturday during a 4-3 victory in Seattle. Grifol said the session went well, but he was still planning to start Andrus at short and rookie Zach Remillard at second while Anderson sat another night.

Then Anderson stepped in, proposing a less demanding role for his throwing shoulder as an alternative.

“He brought it up to me where, ‘I can play second if we need it,’ ” Grifol said.

Said Anderson: “Just trying to get in the lineup. [Grifol] was all in on the plan for sure.”

An otherwise career-long shortstop, Anderson notably played second, and played it well, for Team USA during the preseason World Baseball Classic. But that was a work-around to get Anderson in the lineup on a star-studded team that had two-time All-Star Trea Turner of the Phillies starting at short. The Sox, who ranked 23rd in runs per game before an 0-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position Friday, do not have the same surplus of offensive firepower.

Once more after the game, Anderson said he hopes to remain at shortstop, and Grifol worked overtime to push back against any notion that a shift to second could be a long-term move. If Anderson’s shoulder continues to feel better as he ratchets up his throwing from longer distances, he’ll move back to his natural position, Grifol said.

“Don’t read too much into it,” Grifol

said. “All intentions are for him to go back to shortstop.”

Anderson said he’ll “just keep going with the plan until I feel all the way right to get back over to the other side. We’ll see how the shoulder keeps feeling and take it day by day.”

Anderson, himself a two-time All-Star, obviously hasn’t been the boost to the offense the Sox hoped for when he hustled back after spraining his left knee in April. He entered Friday hitting .235/.279/.259 in 41 games since returning from the injured list and, amid a host of injuries, hasn’t homered since last July.

Last Saturday, Grifol moved him from the leadoff spot to batting second for the first time this season. On Friday, he batted second behind left fielder Andrew Benintendi, but Grifol has insisted the move is strategic and not due to poor performance. Alluding again to complications in Anderson’s swing and stride created by his knee injury, Grifol reiterated his confidence in him.

“At any time, he could hit .300 the rest of the way — he’s got that type of talent,” Grifol said. “He’s been so good at this level that he’s going to be good again. Everybody goes through something like this — everybody does — at some point in time in your career. Nobody’s exempt from adversity at the major-league level.”

Other than his sacrifice fly, Anderson went 0-for-3 and had a pair of deep fly ball outs and a sharp lineout in the eighth.

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