Chicago — Dixon Machado started stinging the ball consistently the second half of spring training and hasn’t stopped.
After collecting two more hits, including a two-run double Saturday, he’s hitting .300 with a .500 slugging percentage. His six doubles is second in the American League to Boston’s Xander Bogaerts.
“He’s doing very well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s on the ball and he’s having quality at-bats and working counts. I’ve said it all along, he’s a talented young man with a good head on his shoulders.”
Machado’s level-headedness and hot start has inspired a lot of conversation among the coaching and analytics staff about his placement in the batting order. Gardenhire has hit him in the No. 9 hole most of spring and in every game so far this season.
“We’ve talked about moving him around in the lineup,” Gardenhire said. “You never want to put too much pressure on a young kid to get him out of whack. But I am not afraid to put him anywhere in the lineup because he has such a level head.”
If a change were to be made, Machado might move up to the No. 2 hole. In that scenario, current No. 2 hitter Jeimer Candelario would probably slot in the No. 6 or No. 7 spot. Jose Iglesias would likely move down to the No. 9 hole.
For now, though, Machado was back at the bottom of the order Saturday.
“He works his tail off on defense and he’s got a pretty plan on who he’s trying to be,” Gardenhire said. “It’s fun to watch.”
Martin's a magician
Leonys Martin put on a defensive clinic in center field Saturday.
In the second inning, he made a sliding stop of a ball hit in the left-center field gap by Nicky Delmonico. Not only did he prevent the ball from going to the wall, he got up quick and nearly threw him out at second.
Later in the inning, he kept Delmonico at third on a fly ball by Yolmer Sanchez. The ball was hit medium depth, but Martin’s strong throw to the plate froze Delmonico.
“He’s pretty underrated as far as some of those things,” Gardenhire said. “His arm strength is unbelievable and he’s pretty accurate, too. He’s got a cannon and I didn’t know that until this year when we saw him in spring training.
“He’s a nice player and he’s got a good attitude.”
In the sixth inning, he took an extra base hit away from Tim Anderson. The ball was hit in the right-center field gap, with a 78 percent hit probability, according to Statcast.
Martin tracked it 92 feet and caught it right in front of the wall.
Gardenhire started JaCoby Jones in left field Saturday in place of Mikie Mahtook, and he didn’t mince words explaining why.
“All I know is, I saw 9 for 17,” Gardenhire said, referencing Jones’ history against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito. “It was in the minor leagues, but I don’t care where it came from. That’s good enough for me.”
Actually, Jones was 8 for 15 against Giolito at the Triple-A level, but his point stands. Plus, Gardenhire wants to keep his bench players as active as he can.
“I want all these guys to play,” he said. “I’ve got to get Victor Reyes a game, too. I said I was going to do that. I’m going to try to mix it up and get all these guys in.”
Jones made a strong defensive play in the seventh inning. With a runner at third and one out, he charged hard and made a diving catch of a sinking liner by Jose Abreu. It ended up being a sacrifice fly, but it stopped a potential big inning.
“That was a great catch by Jonesy,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a play that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it was a huge play for us at the time.”
Around the horn
Miguel Cabrera returned to the lineup Saturday. He said he experienced no residual soreness or tightness after falling hard on his left hip in the first inning on Thursday. He stiffened up again in the chilly temperatures Saturday but played through it.
… Former Tiger and White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez threw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday.