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Yoan Moncada fouled a ball off the inside of his right leg Friday against Milwaukee Brewers.
After a visit from the Chicago White Sox training staff, Moncada stepped back into the batter’s box and hit the next pitch well beyond the right-field wall at American Family Fields of Phoenix for a two-run home run.
“I feel good,” Moncada said through an interpreter the next day. “Just a little soreness in the lower leg. But I feel good. Thank god I was able to hit a homer. That alleviated the pressure on my leg.”
Moncada showed how good he was feeling later that afternoon, legging out a triple against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Moncada had three hits Saturday. But it was what the third baseman did before the game that caught manager Tony La Russa’s attention.
“We had two lineups made because we weren’t going to push it if he was going to play limping,” La Russa said Saturday. “Trainer called him early and he said, ‘No I’m in there.’ And he knows (Sunday) is the last game before the day off, so being in that lineup (Saturday) where you have to drive to north Scottsdale tells a lot about where his head is and it’s in a great place for us.”
Moncada’s place has been on base. He has reached safely in each of his last 17 games through Saturday.
“Right now, I feel very comfortable from the left side,” Moncada said. “I feel very good. I’m progressing. I think I’m ready from the left side. From the right side, I’m still a little bit behind. But it won’t take me too much time to get on time there.”
Being behind from the right side is a product of not facing that many lefties.
“That happened during the season too,” Moncada said. “For me, it’s just a matter of getting the rhythm from that side. I’m going to be good. I’m not concerned about that.”
Moncada has given the opposing pitchers plenty to worry about.
He’s slashing .333/.448/.583 with one home run and four RBIs in 18 Cactus League games through Saturday. He entered Sunday tied for the Cactus League lead in doubles (seven), tied for second in extra-base hits (nine) and ranked third in on-base percentage.
“In the cage he’s by himself when nobody is there, getting extra work,” La Russa said. “All the drills we do, he’s not, ‘Why are we doing this?’ He’s taking swings.”
Moncada finished third in the American League with a .315 batting average during a breakout 2019 season. He slashed .225/.320/.385 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 2020 while battling the aftereffects of COVID-19.
“I feel better than I felt in 2019,” Moncada said. “I think I’m ready to just start playing games and start doing the things I know I can do.”
A return to 2019 form would certainly be a boost for a Sox lineup that took a big hit when Eloy Jimenez a ruptured left pectoral tendon on Wednesday. He’ll be out five to six months.
“Eloy is a big part of this team,” Moncada said. “He’s one of our keys. We are going to miss him. I wish him the best. But you know what? I think we all have to do our job. Somebody is going to play that position and whoever that may be, he has to do his job.
“It’s not on us to try to do (too) much. We have to do up to our capabilities.”
Moncada anticipated hitting ahead of Jimenez at times in the lineup. He expressed confidence in whichever player fills that slot.
“Having Eloy behind me (in the lineup) was good,” Moncada said. “That was the plan and I was feeling good having him behind me in the lineup. Now, I think it’s (Yasmani) Grandal is going to be the person and he knows how to do his job, too.
“Whoever is the person who is going to hit behind me, I’m going to get good protection. I’m not concerned about that.”
After a 2020 impacted by COVID-19, Moncada sees the productive spring as a positive sign for what’s ahead.
“I’m happy because I’m feeling good and I’m healthy,” Moncada said. “I know if I’m healthy I can play this game and I can do a lot of things. I think that’s what matters for me right now. I’m feeling good and just ready for the season to start.”
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