On his 30th birthday on Friday, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson started his major league debut at second base.
It was a mixed bag.
Anderson threw an RBI sacrificial fly to center in the third inning for the Sox’s lone run. But that came after a pick pitch threw his glove for a two-base 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, I didn’t understand it,” Ander-son said after the game, downplaying his new position. “I feel comfortable for the most part.”
Elvis Andrus was also not keen at shortstop. His on-field error set up Rafael Devers’ two-run homer against starter Lucas Giolito in the fourth. That outburst and two unearned runs was enough to top the Sox, who lost 13 games below .500 and seven behind the division-leading Twins. Giolito (5-5) struck out 10 in six innings but took the loss.
“Today’s defense was not good,” coach Pedro Grifol said. “In the end, we have to strike.”
The decision to play Anderson second was prompted by Anderson himself after the initial lineup caused him to miss his fifth straight start with a sore right shoulder. He tested his shoulder before the game, throwing into the infield for the first time since being injured last Saturday in a 4-3 win at Seattle. Grifol said the session went well, but he still plans to throw Andrus to court and rookie Zach Remillard to second while Anderson sits out another night.
Then Anderson stepped in, offering a less demanding role for his throwing shoulder as an alternative.
“He told me: ‘I can play second if we need to,'” Grifol said.
Says Anderson: “I’m just trying to get into the lineup. (Grifol) was all for the plan.
Also a shortstop throughout his career, Anderson notably played second, and did well, for Team USA in the preseason Baseball World Classic. But it was a workaround to get Anderson into the roster of an all-star team that had two-time Phillies All-Star Trea Turner starting short. The Sox, who ranked 23rd in points per game before an 0-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position Friday, don’t have the same surplus of offensive firepower.
Once again after the game, Anderson said he hoped to stay at shortstop, and Grifol worked overtime to fend off any notion that a move to second could be a long-term move. If Anderson’s shoulder continues to feel better as he increases his throws over longer distances, he will return to his natural position, Grifol said.
“Don’t read too much into it”, Grifol
said. “All intentions are for him to return to shortstop.”
Anderson said he would “just continue with the plan until I feel completely in order to go back to the other side.” We’ll see how the shoulder continues to feel and take it day by day.
Anderson, himself a two-time All-Star, obviously didn’t get the offensive boost the Sox were hoping for when he rushed after spraining his left knee in April. He entered Friday averaging .235/.279/.259 in 41 games since returning from the injured list and, amid a bevy of injuries, hasn’t homered since last July.
Last Saturday, Grifol took him from No. 1 to No. 2 at bat for the first time this season. On Friday, he broke second behind left fielder Andrew Benintendi, but Grifol insisted the move is strategic and not due to poor performance. Again alluding to the 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 kind of talent,” Grifol said. “He’s been so good at this level that he’s going to get good again. Everyone goes through something like this – everyone does it – at some point in your career. No one is immune to adversity at the major league level.
Besides his sacrificial fly, Anderson went 0 for 3 and had a pair of deep ball outs and a clean lineout in the eighth.