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First impressions from the White Sox's first spring training game

Defense helps more than it hurts in victory over Dodgers in Cactus League opener

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox's return to respectability opened in earnest with a a professional-looking victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first Cactus League game of the season.

But even if they fumbled and fudged and farted their way through nine innings, it was still viewable baseball. That won't always be the case over the first couple weeks of spring training, so let's GIF this one up.

*Tyler Danish is criticized for funky arm action, but it doesn't jump off the screen like Chris Sale's does.

Tyler Danish windup

Its unorthodoxy becomes more evident when he pitches from the stretch, because that's when my brain said, "Oh, kinda Jake Peavy."

Tyler Danish stretch

Unlike Peavy, he didn't scream at himself. Instead, he channeled his displeasure into a self-stinkface.

Tyler Danish stinkface

Danish's inaugural Cactus League outing reflected his inexperience. He threw a lot of those arm-side misses as the Dodgers loaded the bases with a walk, single and a walk, with a Don Cooper mound visit mixed in there as well. Yet he avoided disaster by getting Kyle Jensen to ground into a double play, then induced a popout from Kiké Hernandez to escape with just one run allowed.

The tendency to miss arm-side might've resulted in him getting squeezed a little:

Tyler Danish squeezed

Although when it comes to small strike zones, you can also start to look at...

*Rob Brantly, who has struggled with his receiving over his 98 MLB games, according to Baseball Prospectus (11 runs below average per 7,000 pitches for his career). I'm not going to make sweeping judgments based on one game with no PITCHf/x data and an offset center-field camera, but it's something to monitor throughout the spring, because he hasn't been pitcher-friendly in the past:

And on the opposite end? Jose Fernandez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Yes, just like last season, when Fernandez–Rob Brantly was the 12th-worst battery in terms of extra strikes, Fernandez has had to deal with an abnormal number of calls going against him, which makes you wonder how good he’d have been to this point with a normal-sized strike zone.

The bigger strike against Brantly on Wednesday was this suboptimal tracking of a pop-up:

Rob Brantley pop-up

The backup job is Geovany Soto's job to lose, but the third catcher race should be contentious, and that's not going to help.

*That non-error error looked especially costly when Scott Schebler seized his second life by drilling Eric Surkamp's fastball to right-center, but J.B. Shuck bailed the both of them out with this fantastic catch:

*Shuck outdid Avisail Garcia, who posted the first defensive highlight with this rather routine sliding catch.

Routine sliding catches are good news for Garcia, because:

  1. He's still sliding instead of diving.
  2. He needs to show some better range this season.

And while sliding catches often serve as distractions from a bad read, that looked like a nice play from start to finish. He was even better at the plate, spraying doubles to the right-field corner and the left-center gap. That's a beautiful sound.

*Brantly's miscue aside, the Sox's defense didn't leak. Replacing Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, Tyler Saladino made plays to his far left and right with ease, and his surgically repaired throwing arm looked strong enough. He also started the Danish-induced double play with Micah Johnson on the turn.

Johnson, for his part, ranged to his left for the final out.

Micah Johnson play

The line on Johnson is that he can cover ground like an above-average second baseman, but he doesn't always know what to do with his hands and body when he gets there. Converting plays like these on a regular basis would be a nice next step in his development, especially if he makes it easier on the pitcher next time (nice job, Logan Kensing).