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Geovany Soto’s injury opens opportunities down the line

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Plus: A difficult year for Tim Anderson on and off field

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The first time Geovany Soto was a White Sox, he was able to get through a full season, which was no small feat considering his previous two were shortened by health issues. Knee injuries with the Angels in 2016 made him 1-for-4, with Herm Schneider’s year the lone exception.

Alas for everybody involved, it doesn’t look like the Sox can help Soto go 2-for-5. The bone chips in his elbow that caused him to go on the 10-day disabled list in April has resurfaced in May. He’s back on the disabled list, Kevan Smith is back in Chicago, and he may be able to stay a while if surgery is recommended:

"It's a possibility," said Soto, who is batting .190 with three home runs and nine RBIs. "Kind of waiting on what the best route is for us and see what the doctor can tell me about what's going on.

"Everything else I feel, it's there. But throwing, unfortunately, is what gets me sharply."

The solace is that Soto was healthy enough to allow the White Sox’ catching depth to set an order for itself, which wasn’t the case last year. Instead, Alex Avila’s injury set up Smith’s injury which set up Hector Sanchez being called up then lost through waivers forcing a promotion for Omar Narvaez despite a shortage of high-minors experience.

The White Sox were fortunate that Narvaez was readier than anybody knew, and that his most reliable skill (plate discipline) translated to the majors, buying time for his other skills to catch up. He’s showing modest improvements across the board so far in 2017.

The Sox are better equipped to handle this year’s catcher injury, and only partially because rebuilding deemphasizes/disincentivizes results. Narvaez shook off a shaky start and has a .379 OBP, which is worth pointing out for a lineup that is in search of a leadoff man. Smith turns 29 next month, and he started the year hitting .377/.435/.491 in Charlotte, so the Sox may as well throw the Peter Principle at him and find out the answer. For the time being, credit Smith with fighting his way back onto the 25-man roster after the Sox outrighted him from the 40-man over the winter.

Below him, the White Sox can give Roberto Pena all the playing time in Charlotte for now, then see if Alfredo Gonzalez is a right-handed Narvaez (although he’s currently on the DL in Birmingham), which then clears room for Zack Collins to start climbing the ladder. For one reason or another, the White Sox are better prepared to absorb the ramifications of an injury-prone catcher who couldn’t escape his past.

Tim Anderson was already going through growing pains in his sophomore season, calling it the most difficult test of his career.

“It’s hard to stay up when you’re struggling. I’ve been sticking with it. I’m learning a lot more than I have been throughout my career because every stop that I’ve made I’ve dominated and kept going. It’s kind of like I hit a wall real quick and I’m learning more and studying more and now it’s time to break the game down and learn a lot more about it.”

A few days later, the year became tougher still when his friend, Branden Moss, was shot and killed after helping the victim of a bar fight in Tuscaloosa, Ala., according to witness reports. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s daughter, and Anderson the godfather to Moss’ daughter.

"He made me a better father and husband," Anderson said. "We had those deep conversations. Those are something I can keep with me. I knew he loved me, and he knew I loved him. So that makes me feel a lot better."

Anderson was open about the loss on social media and spoke about it Wednesday in part because he wanted to let fans know what was going on.

"We're not perfect just because we're playing baseball, and we're not perfect off the field either," Anderson said. "That's something fans need to know, that we go through struggles just like they do. We're all human."