Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.
Yoán Moncada was one of the first key players added when the Chicago White Sox went the rebuild route.
Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech were acquired in December 2016 as part of the trade that sent pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox.
“My first impression after the trade was, I have the chance to play in a different city, in Chicago,” Moncada said Friday through an interpreter. “A different team because Boston was different — they were competing — here we were starting a different process.
“All throughout the years, I found out that process was good for us. It brought us to where we are right now. It was a good process, and I’m just excited to see that we are here right now.”
Right now, the Sox are American League Central Division champions for the first time since 2008. They’ll begin a best-of-five American League Division Series against the Houston Astros on Thursday.
“I’m excited with the postseason coming,” Moncada said. “It’s an exciting time for all of us. The experience that we had last year put us in a way better spot for this year. (I’m) just excited to start playing in the postseason.”
Moncada has made important contributions along the way. The third baseman entered Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field with a .262/.375/.402 slash line with 31 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 142 games.
He hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning Saturday to give the Sox a 5-4 victory. Moncada went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. His run-scoring double in the seventh started of a three-run inning.
“He’ll never surprise us on the field, making a play or taking a clutch at-bat or running the bases,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said before the game. “This guy is really a gifted player.
“He’s really an excellent all-around winning player. Just got to keep him healthy, and we’ve worked hard to do that and he’s worked hard.”
Third-base coach Joe McEwing, who works with the infielders, recently compared Moncada defensively to former big-league shortstop Rey Ordóñez.
“He’s so athletic and the way his feet and his hands work together,” McEwing said. “He’ll set his glove to a certain hop so far away from where the ball is, and I’m like, ‘wow.’ It’s crazy. I saw one other player do that, and it was Rey Ordóñez. He would set his glove to certain hops or even on relay throws. He’d set it early and then throw from that spot. (Moncada) does the same thing and it’s like, wow, that’s how talented this man is.
“The way (Moncada) closes on balls, it’s insane.”
Offensively and defensively, Moncada described his season as “good.”
“I’m not measuring it just from the stats, but just the way that I’ve been feeling,” he said. “I’ve been feeling really good throughout the whole season, and to me, that’s very important. From that point, it was a good season.”
Moncada has hit at least 30 doubles for the third time in four seasons.
He’s second on the team with a career-high 84 walks and reached base 28 straight games from Aug. 14-Sept. 20. That stretch included a 19-game hitting streak from Aug. 14-Sept. 7.
“I’m feeling amazing, and I appreciate this opportunity to get back to the postseason,” Moncada said. “To me the key is to just keep playing the game the way that I play the game, just hard, try to enjoy the game and try to do my thing. It’s just keep doing what I’ve been doing.
“The reason for (saying he feels amazing) is my body feels good, my body still feels strong. The key has been that I started working on my strength and conditioning during the offseason. I had a plan, and I’ve been following that plan throughout the whole season, too, with some variations.”
After a taste of the postseason last year, Moncada is looking forward to seeing what’s ahead.
“Last year was a difficult year for everybody, and getting eliminated in the postseason (in the wild-card series against the Oakland Athletics) wasn’t what we were expecting,” he said. “This year we are united. We’re stronger.”
Reliever Evan Marshall sees progress in a simulated game
Marshall is seeing progress as he continues to recover from a strained right flexor pronator. The reliever, who has been on the injured list since June 30, threw a simulated game Saturday.
“I can’t imagine getting much more out of what I did (Saturday),” Marshall said. “I was 90, 91 (mph) with pretty good command and stuff. The elbow held up to get me through it good enough, and now it’s going to be how do I bounce back now that the adrenaline and all the excitement is wearing off.”
La Russa said Marshall’s command was “surprisingly good.” They’ll assess Marshall on Sunday.
“As far as Round 1 (of the playoff) goes, I would say I could do it, but if I go out there and pitch once, I could have to get replaced for injury because there’s no way I could throw again,” Marshall said. “So that’s why coming in (Sunday) is going to be a real good gauge to see where we’re at.
“Because the playoffs, you’ve got to be ready to throw five times in five games. Maybe that’s not on the table for Round 1. I hope it is, but if I continue to progress the way that I am and push through what I’m dealing with, maybe I’m able to help the team out for Round 2.”