Yoan Moncada could feel a significant amount of pressure to force his way into the White Sox picture early this season.
If it’s not enough the infielder is ranked the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, then consider that the Sox gave up one of the best pitchers in the game to acquire Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz in December.
But after the Sox sent him to minor-league camp this week to prepare for his start with Triple-A Charlotte, Moncada said he isn’t under stress to prove himself as a player worth the stomach-churning price of parting with Chris Sale.
“I don’t really feel the pressure because of that situation,” Moncada said through a team interpreter. “I feel good, relaxed and I’m just trying to enjoy this team. ... The experience that I had with the major-league team was good during spring training.”
After a slow start, Moncada got hot over the last couple of weeks and finished Cactus League play with a .317 batting average, four doubles, a triple, three homers, 13 RBIs, five walks and 14 strikeouts.
“That was the result of my routine and my work,” Moncada said. “But it was also because I was feeling more comfortable at home plate with my swing, with my rhythm.”
He also continued his development at second base, and Sox manager Rick Renteria praised bench coach Joe McEwing for having Moncada take grounders last week at shortstop and third base, where Moncada played some in Cuba. He said the drill helped Moncada to remember how to play more relaxed at second base.
“He just wanted me to have fun at the position, to be more loose with my feet,” Moncada said.
Moncada seemed upbeat as he spoke about developing a comfort-level with the Sox players and coaches, some of whom will go to Charlotte with him. The Sox have yet to reveal just how long it will be before Moncada makes his debut at Guaranteed Rate Field, saying players will let them know their readiness with their performance.
Moncada is taking the move in stride.
“It was kind of difficult for me, but it wasn’t my decision to make,” he said. “It was their decision, and I accept it.”
Mets pitchers stagger
Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler took a step back Wednesday in the Mets’ 15-9 loss to the Marlins, a shaky sign for New York with opening day less than two weeks away.
Matz gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings, including one run in the first and four in the second.
“I was up in the zone. Last time I was up out of the zone and had some walks,” Matz said. “This time (the fastballs) were up in the zone and they were able to get their barrels to it more.”
Coming off surgery Oct. 4 to remove bone spurs from his left elbow, he entered with a 1.04 ERA in his first three spring training starts.
“I’m glad I’ve got one or two more starts before the season comes,” Matz said.
Wheeler allowed four runs in three innings, including three in his last. His velocity reached 96 mph.
“I felt good but it’s not the result I wanted,” Wheeler said.