The White Sox took the field for the first time in 2017 at Camelback Ranch on Saturday, losing their Cactus League opener to the Dodgers, 5-3. It wasn’t quite an Opening Day lineup — Todd Frazier is nursing a sore oblique, Charlie Tilson is taking it easy after a stress reaction in his foot and Brett Lawrie is hurt again (more on that in a bit) — but we nevertheless were able to collect video evidence to use for premature and sweeping conclusions.
Here’s what I saw from the first game of an even longer than usual spring.
That’s good: Carson Fulmer’s cutter. Fulmer survived a couple of line drives to post a zero in the first inning, then followed with a 1-2-3 second. He recorded three strikeouts against one walk, and all three of them were swinging strikeouts on what appeared to be his cutter. Here’s Franklin Gutierrez to strand two in the first ...
... a front-door cutter to Joc Pederson to start the second ...
... and one away to Yasiel Puig for a third consecutive K.
Fulmer went toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw (who threw a characteristically brisk 12-pitch 1-2-3 first), and the first-rounder ended up departing with a 2-0 lead. It’d be nice to have PITCHf/x data just to get an idea of how lively his stuff was, but Fulmer sounded pleased with his showing.
That’s bad: Chris Beck’s third inning. Then Beck took over in the third and gave up three runs on three hits and a couple of walks. Granted, it started with a double on an imperfect Avisail Garcia route, but it was well-struck. A walk, a single, a double and a groundout later, and the Dodgers led 3-2.
Beck pitched around a two-out walk for a scoreless fourth inning, but he didn’t strike out any of the 11 batters he faced, while the other five Sox pitchers all fanned at least one. That’s the bigger-picture concern for Beck. Anybody can throw — and thus absorb — a poor spring outing, especially in an extended preseason like this one, but there are a lot of guys in the bullpen like him who didn’t get thumped as hard last season.
That’s good: Yolmer Sanchez. The second baseman formerly known as Carlos looked rejuvenated by his given name, which he’s officially playing under from here on out. He capitalized on both his plate appearances, drilling a sacrifice lineout to left in the second, then coming through with an RBI single in the fourth inning. The depth chart looks stacked against Sanchez, but he still can keep his eyes on the prize, because one of those players ahead of him is ...
That’s bad: Brett Lawrie ... who wasn’t able to play in the debut due to discomfort in the same leg that cost him the last 2½ months of the 2016 season. It was just a week before that Lawrie said he “can move forward” from the issue, which he said was caused by over-the-counter orthotics. Given that he’s only played 130 games in one of his six MLB seasons, I don’t know if anybody can ever be that confident about his forecast.
That’s good: Zack Collins’ debut. Collins replaced Geovany Soto after four innings and went 1-for-2. He grounded out in the sixth inning, but came back with a single in the ninth on what one hopes is reflective of his approach. Facing lefty Edward Paredes in the ninth inning, Collins worked a 3-0 count by laying off three attempts to brush the corner. He then took a fastball down the middle before lacing a similar pitch to right for a single. He was the only batter Paredes didn’t strike out in the inning.
This was also nice to see after last year’s debacle.
That’s bad: Yoan Moncada’s debut. OK, “bad” is harsh, but he went 0-for-2 with a groundout and a strikeout. The latter came against Paredes after Collins’ single. Then again, strike three looked dodgy at best, and strike two wasn’t much better.
That’s good: Matt Davidson’s foot. Davidson started the scoring in the second by lining a single through the middle, then came around to score on a single, wild pitch and groundout. That looked similar to Davidson’s first trip around the bases during his official White Sox debut last June, but he was actually able to take the field again afterward this tme.