GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nick Madrigal stood in the box.
Dallas Keuchel stood on the mound.
Every opportunity during the spring is a chance to grow. A chance to learn. And there was no better time for the White Sox prospect to gain experience against top competition than Friday against the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner.
“I’ve been wanting to face him since he came on the team and we started doing live at-bats,” Madrigal said Saturday. “I was pretty excited. You’ve seen him play on TV, you’ve seen all the success he’s had. I was excited to get out there and see different pitches. I’m a competitor and he’s a competitor, that’s why it makes it fun out there.”
Madrigal took a pitch and then hit a hard one-hopper back to the mound that got past Keuchel. The swing and result is an example of what Madrigal brings to the plate.
Madrigal is one of three Sox players, along with Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick, battling for the starting job at second base.
“My goal is just to show up every day and give everything I have,” Madrigal said. “Nothing really changes from last spring to this spring. I’m going to control what I can control, and that’s showing up. I know everything else will work itself out the way it’s supposed to. I’m not too worry about anything else.”
Madrigal is the No. 40 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He had a combined .311/.377/.414 slash line with 27 doubles, five triples, four home runs, 55 RBIs and 35 stolen bases between Class A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2019. He struck out just 16 times in 532 plate appearances.
“He’s a different type of hitter,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said last week. “He puts the ball in play. He strikes out a very limited amount. He’s still a guy who is capable of driving the ball into the gaps and using his speed to get extra bases and causing trouble for a defense in a different way.
“We foresee this team, not only this year but in the future, having the ability to put the ball out of the park, and Madrigal brings a different offensive dynamic and profile to help complement that.”
Madrigal’s 2019 included getting selected to the All-Star Futures Game, along with teammate Luis Robert. And Madrigal received recognition for his defense, winning the minor-league Gold Glove at second base.
“We’re looking at this young man as being able to do a lot of different things,” manager Rick Renteria said Saturday. “He’s much calmer, this is his second year now in camp. He’s already had a tremendous demeanor, he’s focused, he’s high energy.
“The guys are talking a lot about continuing to try to work on honing in on himself, take the bat-to-ball skills he has. Defensively, he’s been very good, and all the drills he’s been doing have been pretty flawless. He’s just fitting in and he’s getting more and more comfortable.”
Some of Madrigal’s favorite aspects early this spring have been seeing the live pitching.
“I hadn’t seen any arms over the offseason,” Madrigal said. “The last couple of days have been nice, seeing live pitching and just getting back on the field with the guys. It’s getting back into the routine of things.”
It’s all part of the process for Madrigal, who has been anticipating 2020 “big time.”
“It was one of the longest offseasons I’ve had,” Madrigal said. “By the end of it, I was ready to get back on the field and get things going again. It’s nice to get some rest after a long season, but I was ready to get back to it, with all the players we picked up. It’s a lot of excitement in the clubhouse and behind the scenes. I was excited to be a part of it.”
Giolito update: Starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said he’s “right where I want to be” following a bullpen session Saturday. The ace has been slowed this spring by a muscle strain in his rib-cage area
Giolito’s day included simulating long toss into a net and throwing 20 pitches off the hill.
“It felt very good,” Giolito said. “Right on track.”
Giolito said the next step will be another side session in “a couple of days.”
“We are going day by day, step by step,” Giolito said. “All I can say for (Saturday) is I felt 100%. I was happy with my command of my heater. Offspeed pitches felt good coming out. Couldn’t ask for more.”
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