CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte Knights are coming off of a week against the Durham Bulls where they dropped four out of six games, and are now in the middle of a six-game set against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Having lost the first game on Tuesday before coming away with a victory on Wednesday, the Knights looked to continue the winning trend in Thursday night’s ballgame — but not without some storylines to focus on.
All eyes were on Charlotte Knights slugger Jake Burger as he made his way out to the second base position for Thursday night’s game against Jacksonville. With Nick Madrigal officially out for the remainder of the 2021 schedule following season-ending surgery to repair tears in his right hamstring, many have speculated the different routes the front office might take in response to yet another impact-player going down for an extended period of time.
It seems like trying out Burger at second base is not beyond the White Sox, and one game into his career as a middle infielder Burger looks surprisingly comfortable.
“Chris Getz and I talked a few weeks ago, we’re always looking for players who can maybe play multiple positions … we’re always looking for areas where we can improve the White Sox and also improve these guys’ value across the board.” Knights manager Wes Helms said postgame regarding the decision to give Burger some time at second base.
“We just started talking and second base came up for him. It just shows that some guys get pigeonholed into certain positions when they could probably play more positions, and we don’t want to limit those guys. So we thought it was worth a try, and so far it’s been really, really good.”
Primarily a third baseman to this point, Burger moved over to second base for the first time in his professional career. The timing of Madrigal going down is purely coincidental, as the Knights and White Sox had been talking about Burger getting time at second base well before Madrigal sustained his injury.
Helms went on to say that it could take as many as 25 games for Burger to start to get comfortable at the position, so look for him to get more time in the middle infield as the Knights season goes on.
A new twist on an old classic
White Sox fans are no strangers to seeing the last name Beckham on the back of a jersey, with Gordon having played seven years in Chicago after being selected by the White Sox as the eighth overall pick of the 2008 draft. Now it’s another Beckham who is blazing a trail in Charlotte.
To say Tim Beckham is “on a tear” would be understating his performance over the last handful of games. Beckham came into Thursday night’s game having hit seven home runs through 11 games in June, then promptly added to his total with yet another home run to lead off the second inning. Beckham seems to be seeing the ball really well right now, as he also drew a walk and cracked a single, eventually coming around to score both times.
Guys like Beckham, Nick Williams, and Mikie Mahtook — players with major league experience — are in a difficult spot in the White Sox organization, with seemingly no opportunity at the big-league level. Still, they are leaders on a team of young guys looking to have a career in baseball, and they are doing it well.
Building a better tomorrow, today
Knights starting pitcher Mike Wright pitched a solid six innings on Thursday night, marking the fifth consecutive outing with at least five innings pitched, on his way to his fourth win in as many starts. While he will be the first one to say that he does not consider himself the ace of the staff, he does consider himself a mentor to the younger pitchers on the team.
“There’s a lot of guys here with a ton of talent, and you can see it.” Wright says. “They’ll show flashes of it — they throw hard, they have an electric second pitch, but they kind of get in trouble around the strike zone. I get it, they’re trying to get called up. We have a first-place team in the big leagues and it doesn’t look like anybody is going to move, you feel like you have to pitch perfectly to get called up.”
The White Sox starting rotation at the big-league level is one of the best in baseball this season. As a team, the White Sox staff ranks towards the top in most pitching categories, so Wright knows first-hand that it’s hard for pitchers in the organization to feel like they have a chance to get called up.
Wright went on to say, “In all honesty, things happen. Nobody wishes for injury, nobody wishes for bad things to happen to anybody. Spots open up, and you just have to be the guy that they can trust to go up there and throw strikes and compete. That’s the biggest thing with these guys … [a much better career] comes when you’re attacking the zone and being aggressive.”
The Knights will continue their series against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Truist Field in Charlotte through this weekend.