3 takeaways from Chicago White Sox camp, including Andrew Vaughn’s resting routine and Michael Kopech’s consistent curveballs
Andrew Benintendi began the bottom of the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a bang, hitting a home run to right field.
It was the first homer of the spring for Benintendi, who joined the White Sox on a five-year deal in the offseason.
Jake Burger continued his strong spring at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI in the 6-4 loss at Camelback Ranch. Both hits were singles.
Here are three more takeaways from Saturday at Sox camp.
1. The Sox are erring on the side of caution with Andrew Vaughn, who is day to day with lower back soreness.
The Sox have been resting the first baseman recently.
“Andrew’s going to take a few days off,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He’s had a ton of ABs — I think the last time I checked he had (31) at-bats. He’s played a ton.”
Vaughn last played March 12 against the Los Angeles Angels. He is hitting .323 (10-for-31) with one double, one triple, one home run and four RBIs with two walks and three runs in 11 games.
Vaughn takes over at first base after José Abreu signed with the Houston Astros in the offseason. Vaughn spent most of his first two big-league seasons as an outfielder.
“He’s in a good spot,” Grifol said. “There’s no reason to push him through anything. I’m sure if you asked him if he could play he’d say yeah. But we’re not going to push him through anything right now. He’s had a great camp. He feels comfortable at first base. We like where his swing is at. He likes where his swing is at so we’re good.
2. Michael Kopech was consistent with his curveball in second spring outing.
Kopech aimed for four ups Saturday.
He accomplished that goal, even though he exited after facing the first batter of the third inning. It was a brief break. Kopech returned for the fourth, an option in spring training, and faced one more batter before his day was done.
Kopech allowed one unearned run on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 2⅓ innings.
“The main purpose of (Saturday) was to get four ups, and I got that, happy to do that,” Kopech said. “Obviously it could have been a lot cleaner. I went deep in counts repetitively. I would like to be a little bit more efficient. Clean up that first inning and I probably could have a complete third.
“Got to work on some things. Some stuff was there that I wasn’t expecting to be there and some stuff I was expecting to be there wasn’t there. It was a day to feel some things out. Overall it was a good spring training day.”
Kopech saw good results with his curveball.
“I was trying to get more comfortable throwing my curveball, landing it in the zone,” he said. “Going into the game I wasn’t feeling real comfortable with it. The first inning, it was pretty much the only thing that had some consistency with. Kind of funny how things work out that way.
“I got to work on that and also working on being quicker to the plate. With the new rules and everything, we’re going to have to figure out ways to control the running game a little bit. And I was probably a bit too quick (Saturday), which is probably a good problem to have — be able to slow myself down instead of having to speed myself up.”
3. Reliever Gregory Santos’ ‘will to be great’ impresses Pedro Grifol.
Santos faced four batters Friday against the Cubs. He struck out each hitter.
“What impressed me the most, it’s not the 100-mph fastball, it’s not the slider he throws for strikes for high percentage which is a good combination,” Grifol said of Santos’ spring. “His will to be great, that’s what’s impressed me the most.
“I talked to him one time about times to the plate. I talked to him one time about PFPs and how you go about that type of work and how important that is to us. And I haven’t had to say it again. Every time you watch him take a PFP, you see him getting after it and treating it like here’s how I’m going to make an adjustment.”
Santos has allowed three hits and struck out eight in 5⅓ scoreless innings this spring. The Sox acquired the right-hander from the San Francisco Giants for minor-league pitcher Kade McClure on Dec. 22.
“On top of the 100-mph fastball with plus-plus movement, a slider he throws for strikes, his will to be great has been really impressive to me — and he’s a smart kid. A really smart kid,” Grifol said. “And versatility. He can pitch multiple innings and he’s got the stuff to pitch any part of the game, not that we would do that right now, he’s a young kid. He’s 23. That was a great pickup.”