Chicago White Sox SS Tim Anderson on playing for Team USA in the WBC: ‘It’s cool to be able to cherish those moments’

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Tim Anderson is a batting champion and two-time All-Star.

The Chicago White Sox shortstop has added another accomplishment to the list as a member of Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

“For me to be able to hop in and catch it during this part of my career, it’s only right that I play for Team USA and do something cool,” Anderson recently told the Tribune. “Not a lot of people get to do that.

“And it’s even better — I got a USA jersey, so that’s dope.”

Anderson, 29, is one of three Sox players on Team USA, along with starter Lance Lynn and reliever Kendall Graveman. Their first game is Saturday against Team Britain in Pool C play at Chase Field in Phoenix.

“It’s cool to be able to cherish those moments and allow people around you to see those moments and you’ve got things to show for it,” Anderson said.

Anderson appeared in six Cactus League games this spring before going to Team USA camp. In an exhibition game Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, he went 1-for-4 with a double and one run as the leadoff hitter in a 6-0 U.S. victory.

“I’m really impressed with Tim Anderson,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He wants to be great. He practices to be great. He’s got a great attitude. He’s a winner. He’s got an edge. I admired him from the other side. Big time.”

Grifol spent the previous 10 seasons in various coaching roles with the Kansas City Royals. The teams had their dust-ups, including the Royals taking exception to Anderson’s bat flip during a 2019 matchup.

“I know KC and the White Sox had their deal, but even at that time I admired him from the other side,” Grifol said. “I just think this game needs to be played with an edge. And he brings it — he brings that edge.

“Any time I run into a player like that, I admire the player. Especially when he practices and plays the way he does, which for me he plays the game really hard.”

Second baseman Elvis Andrus also noticed those traits from a distance.

“We have the same mentality which is to show up and dominate,” Andrus said. “That’s what I tell my teammates. I don’t care what you do, how you prepare, it’s up to you, it’s your career. But as long as we have the same mentality to show up, and we’re all pulling the same way there won’t be any problems. It’s been very easy. Besides talented, he’s a really good human being.”

Teammates know what Anderson brings to the table and are happy to have him back at the top of the lineup after his 2022 season was cut short because of an injury.

“Tim means a lot to us,” outfielder Gavin Sheets said. “He’s our spark plug. He’s our energy. Obviously an unbelievable player as well.

“Excited to have him back. He’s energized, he’s ready to go and just another piece to full health that we have this year that’s exciting.”

Anderson had some highs last season, including being voted an All-Star starter for the first time in his career. He slashed .301/.339/.395 — his fourth consecutive season with a batting average above .300, a stretch that includes leading the majors in the category in 2019.

But he was limited to 79 games last season after suffering a sagittal band tear in his left middle finger. The injury occurred during a ninth-inning at-bat on Aug. 6 against the Texas Rangers. It turned out to be his final game of the season.

Anderson said he missed “just competing.”

“Looking for that pitch that you can crush,” he said. “Ain’t nothing like being on time and waiting on your pitch to hit. From the point of walking up (to the plate) and just embracing it all. From the fans to being on a big-league field with some of the best to ever do it.

“It definitely feels good to be back out competing and just enjoying it.”