CHICAGO -- Team defense will be addressed in the offseason, which means the Chicago White Sox could be looking for a new left fielder come 2015.
Just one batter into Thursday’s eventual 3-2 defeat to the Cleveland Indians, Alejandro De Aza misplayed a ball along the left-field stands into a triple. It led to a quick 1-0 Indians lead and the White Sox were left to play catch-up much of the night.
That it was a low-scoring affair Thursday only highlighted the impact one misplay can have.
De Aza and Dayan Viciedo have been defensive liabilities all season and whether either returns next season remains to be seen. The White Sox are set to go with Adam Eaton in center field and Avisail Garcia in right field next year.
Defense isn’t the only area where they White Sox need to make fundamental improvements, but it is an area that continues to hurt them often.
“Being fundamentally sound in every aspect of the game is a priority for us,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “We have made some improvements in certain areas, but we are not where we need to be. We know that, whether it's an element of personnel or instruction, it's something that we look to fairly regularly during the season and then more intensely early in the offseason, when we try to address some of those needs.”
The White Sox entered play Thursday with the fourth-most errors in the American League with 85, and their .983 fielding percentage was 11th in the 15-team league.
Eaton has represented a huge improvement in outfield defense from last season, but now that Gordon Beckham is gone, infield defense could take a hit. Alexei Ramirez has been solid at shortstop, greatly improved from a down year last season.
One concern coming into the year was the play of Jose Abreu at first base, but he has been better than advertised, although it took some work.
“He was a little rough in spring training with footwork and things like that,” manager Robin Ventra said about Abreu. “He’s worked on it, give him all the credit in the world, and coaches have helped him with things around first base. With Paulie being here, watching Paulie on days he doesn’t play first, he had a little bit of an issue with balls in the dirt early in the year, and he’s gotten a lot better I think.”
Abreu is proof that better defense can be learned, even at this level, for those who are willing to put the time into it.
“There’s frustration to it; you want to be better at it,” Ventura said. “But by no means would I expect we’re going to win Gold Gloves in the spots you’re talking about. That’s part of who we are in certain areas and you have to wear those lumps. But if you get somebody you feel is playing below their abilities, then that’s definitely an issue. You get frustrated with it, I get that, but you still have to work at it and try and get better at it.”
So while offense was the target of the front office last season, and pitching -- especially in the bullpen -- seems to be this winter’s goal, plenty other areas of the game will also be under consideration.
“Whether it's defense or baserunning, how we're hitting situationally or other elements of the fundamentals, it's a priority for us and we know we're not there yet,” Hahn said. “We need to improve, but we're getting closer.”