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PHOENIX – Elvis Andrus is a shortstop who’s never played second base in his major league career.
And while that remains true, it doesn’t seem to have been a disqualifier for either Andrus or the White Sox, the two sides reportedly coming together on a one-year free-agent deal.
Andrus, who impressed in 43 late-season games with the White Sox in 2022 after being cut loose from the A’s, seemed a safe bet to land a starting shortstop gig somewhere in the big leagues this winter. But on the eve of the White Sox’ full-squad workout, Andrus’ landing place seems to be in the middle of the battle for the starting job at second base on the South Side.
Fans had an Andrus reunion high on their wish lists this offseason after the 14-year major league veteran slashed .271/.309/.464 in 191 plate appearances with the White Sox last summer. He smacked nine homers in that small sample size, and his total of 17 long balls between the White Sox and A’s last year matched the team-leading total hit by Andrew Vaughn.
Throw in more-than-capable defense at shortstop and an attitude that brought a midseason spark to a somewhat sputtering White Sox clubhouse, and it makes sense why plenty would want to have him around.
But a position switch would of course be necessary, with face of the franchise Tim Anderson starring at shortstop. Andrus filled in well while Anderson sat out the final chunk of the season with an injury, but how would he fare in a move to second base? And would he even be willing to return in 2023 if it meant a move to a position he’s never played in the big leagues?
“If that’s the only option I have, moving from short to another position, I’d be more than happy,” Andrus said at season’s end. “For me, it’s about playing and, at this point in my career, winning, being in a winning environment.”
It seems that’s where things have ended up.
Andrus suddenly becomes the favorite to win the everyday job at second base, given the dependability and certainty he brings as a longtime major league veteran. Prior to the reported reunion, Romy Gonzalez seemed to be in the driver’s seat, and team brass spent the offseason and early days of camp gushing about the 26-year-old – who, by the way, earned loud cheers from teammates after hitting a homer in live batting practice earlier Sunday.
“There’s been nothing but raves about Romy Gonzalez this offseason from those coaches who have worked with him,” Rick Hahn said just days ago, during his welcome-to-camp media session. “We even had a player that went down and worked with him and came back and came into my office in the offseason and said, ‘Don’t you dare trade that guy.’
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm about Romy and his future.”
It could perhaps still be classified a competition, and Gonzalez could still wow in camp and force himself into a starting spot. But Hahn forecasted as recently as last month that second base could still be an area of the roster that could see an addition before Opening Day. And here’s that addition in the form of Andrus.
It says something about how unproven Gonzalez and the team’s other internal options at second base are that someone who’s never played a major league game at the position can be considered more of a sure thing. But the White Sox got an up-close look at Andrus last year, and there’s little doubt he made an impact offensively.
As for his ability to move to second base successfully? For what it’s worth, then-acting manager Miguel Cairo was asked about the possibility when it looked like Anderson might make it back before the end of the season and said it likely wouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge for Andrus.
“Heck yeah,” Cairo said, asked if Andrus could regularly play second base. “He’s a shortstop, he always can go and play second base. I think he will be bored over there, but he can do it. He knows the game. He has really good feet, good hands and he knows the game. No surprise about that.”
We’ll see if the current manager, Pedro Grifol, feels the same way.
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