De Aza strikes first in LF battle

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
8:24
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Perhaps the Chicago White Sox won’t have much of a left-field platoon after all following the first ever multi-home run game of Alejandro De Aza's career.

De Aza not only earned the start after a solid spring training, the left-handed hitter also got the call since the Minnesota Twins had right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound.

The right-handed-hitting Dayan Viciedo could only sit and watch Monday's 5-3 White Sox victory, and he might want to get comfortable with that spot on the bench. Nobody was saying De Aza is the main man now after hitting two home runs, but the majority of pitchers in the league are right-handed, meaning that De Aza should get those at-bats, and possibly more.

[+] EnlargeAlejandro De Aza
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastAlejandro De Aza was feeling the love from his White Sox teammates after his second home run Monday.
"That’s just what we have," Ventura said of his left-field options. "That’s a part of our roster, and you have to be able to adjust and make decisions based on how you feel you’re going to win that day. Do both guys want to play? Yes. Are both guys good enough to play? Yeah. But that’s part of where we’re at roster wise."

De Aza batted .383 this spring with a .596 slugging percentage and needed every bit of it to get back into the good graces with the coaching staff.

Despite 17 home runs and 62 RBIs as the leadoff man a season ago, his bad defense and worse baserunning prompted the club to trade for Adam Eaton to take over in center field and at the top of the order.

De Aza figured to be a reserve this season, even though he makes the most money ($4.25 million) of any of White Sox’s four outfield options. But then came his eye-opening spring, with a February and March from Viciedo that looked simply like more of the same.

Despite what was seen to be huge potential, Viciedo has continued to disappoint. Viciedo's biggest issue is an infatuation with overswinging, coupled with poor strike-zone recognition. Starting De Aza on Monday was an easy call for Ventura, and it should remain an easy one moving forward.

"I try to put the ball in play, try to do my job. In any position in the batting order that I am I want to do my job," De Aza said. "Thank God, it's happened now."

With De Aza removed from the leadoff spot, perhaps the White Sox can see more RBI potential from him as a seventh hitter, the spot in which he hit Monday, or even a No. 6 hitter.

His two-homer day put him in good company. He was the first White Sox player to hit two home runs on Opening Day since Jim Thome did it in 2008 at Cleveland. The last player to do it at home was Minnie Minoso in 1960.

How long he can ride his Opening Day wave remains to be seen.

Whereas Viciedo doesn’t seem to realize he is slipping out of favor, De Aza seems to have heard the team’s message loud and clear. He’s still trying to manage expectations, though.

"It's at-bat by at-bat," he said. "You wake up tomorrow and you don't feel the same or you think you have the same energy and something happens in the game. It's just the game."

He didn’t want to make a big deal out of his first chance to play in 2014, yet still managed to do big things.

"I came in like every other day," De Aza said. "I know it's a special day, but at the same time, I don't think about it much because I don't want to put pressure on me."

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.17 208 174
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .317
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208