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Zach Remillard hasn’t just won over White Sox fans, he’s got a big backer in Pedro Grifol

Vinnie Duber Avatar
July 8, 2023

White Sox fans, you’re not alone.

Pedro Grifol also loves Zach Remillard.

Heck, he might be the Zach Remillard Fan Club’s president.

“He does a lot of little things right, which I like to see,” Grifol said. “That’s what I like.”

Indeed, Remillard has won over a large number of White Sox fans by doing the little things. He’s probably well versed in the team’s old “grinder rules,” given the way he plays, and in an era where so much emphasis has been placed on the home run and swinging for the fences — and in a lineup full of supposed power hitters who have mostly disappointed the last two seasons — Remillard’s brand of baseball has struck many as refreshing.

He singles. He steals bases. He plays good defense. He draws walks. He plays a bunch of different positions. He hustles.

Or, as his teammates put it, he plays to win.

“He’s a hard-nosed player that wants to win. That’s what he does,” Gavin Sheets told CHGO on Saturday. “He’ll do whatever it takes, whether it’s defense, base-running, hitting. He’s a guy that’s going to play winning baseball.

“He’s playing the game the same way (as he did in) Low A, just doing the little things, playing extremely hard. He’s going to be the dirtiest jersey at the end of every game. Hasn’t changed from Low A to now.”

Remillard was a 10th-round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2016 — the same summer his Chanticleers won the College World Series — and though he’s never ranked highly on any list of the top prospects in the White Sox’ organization, he persevered his way into his first big league promotion last month.

In his major league debut, he subbed in for Tim Anderson, picked up three hits and drove in both the game-tying and game-winning runs. He’s played in basically every game since and started most of them, taking a .367 batting average and .456 on-base percentage into Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, which came after he had two go-ahead RBIs in Friday night’s win, including a bases-loaded walk to break a late 7-all tie.

“I’m telling you, there’s very little that he can’t do on the baseball field,” Grifol said after the game. “Just a good baseball player, man. He’s always in the right place at the right time. He makes plays, he steals bases, he takes a walk. Surprised he didn’t lay (a bunt) down today, which he’s done. Just a good baseball player, good to have around.”

As mentioned, Grifol’s enjoyed having Remillard around so much that the 29-year-old rookie is rapidly turning into an everyday player for these White Sox. Plenty of that speaks to the disappointing seasons being had by those expected to be regulars, sure. Elvis Andrus has put up woeful offensive numbers as the team’s primary second baseman, Oscar Colás just returned from a two-month stint in the minor leagues, Sheets has not produced much, and Yoán Moncada remains sidelined with a back injury that’s been bothering him since the spring.

But Remillard has played his way into this opportunity, not only with what he’s done at the plate but with his ability to play all over the field.

“He kind of reminds me of a guy like Whit Merrifield,” Sheets said, invoking the Blue Jays’ multi-positional All Star, a longtime White Sox division nemesis with the Royals. “You can put him in left field, right field, second, short, wherever.”

Even after Colás returned to the big leagues this week, Remillard got the start in right field over the organization’s No. 2 prospect Friday, sparking everything from curiosity to outrage on social media. Grifol cited a matchup that worked against Colás and favored Remillard that day, but earlier in the week, he said that Remillard has won his approval in such fashion that he’s not even super focused on the matchups. He’s just running Remillard out there whenever he can.

“I haven’t been focused too much on the matchup side of it. I want to see him in the game,” Grifol said. “He does too many things that I like to see: plays good defense, runs the bases, good at-bats, takes a walk, solid defensively.

“I don’t know that he’s an everyday guy, I’m not sure yet. He just got here. We’re moving him around. He’s playing mostly every day. But I’m going to continue to evaluate that.

“I like that style player. That’s what I look for, guys that can beat you in different ways. As long as he continues to do that and doesn’t get away from that, I’m going to keep playing him.”

Remillard was in the leadoff spot Saturday.

Fans have seen Remillard’s do-anything attitude as a breath of fresh air in the middle of a shockingly ugly season for the White Sox, who started Saturday at 14 games below .500.

But this is nothing new for Remillard and those who have played with him. This is how he’s always been. Guys like Sheets and Jake Burger, who spent tons of time playing alongside Remillard in the minors, knew this is what would happen when he reached the big leagues.

“He’s awesome, man,” Burger said Friday. “He works as hard as anybody. He plays the game as hard as anybody and plays the game right. He’s had a long wait. It’s really special to see what he’s doing. Every single at-bat, you are going to get a competitive one. He’s going to scratch and claw and do whatever it takes to win.

“He brings a different dynamic. He’s got the speed. He can play anywhere on the field. He’s a great dude and great personality.”

That personality is what produces the diving plays, the stolen bases and the dirty jerseys.

“He’s pretty intense,” Sheets said. “He keeps the intensity off the field, too. … He was a big video gamer. I wasn’t a big video gamer, but (when we were in the minor leagues), I would come into his room just to watch him play sometimes, because he would be so animated playing. He takes that intensity straight to the video games. I would always sit in his room and watch him yell at his TV screen. That intensity is on and off the field.”

Remillard’s a little chiller to talk to in person — sheepishly admitting that, prior to reaching Triple-A Charlotte, the video game he was most into was “Fortnite” — but he acknowledged that that intensity is what’s helped him accomplish what he has as a player.

“I think it’s just who I am,” he told CHGO on Saturday. “I’m pretty passionate, pretty wired and pretty intentional. Who you see on the field is just spillover of who I am off the field.

“I try to keep it in check a little bit more on the field, … but being out there on the field and letting it free, I just feel like it’s what I’m called to do.”

For a long while, that calling had to wait, considering the White Sox had other plans. They acquired Moncada in 2016 and spent a top-five draft pick on Nick Madrigal in 2018. Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa were higher in the pecking order ahead of this season — Jose Rodríguez and Bryan Ramos still are, per the prospect rankings — and the team inked Andrus to play second base during spring training. But it all went sideways, to varying degrees, allowing for a mid season shot for Remillard.

Now it’s time to see if that personality and approach to the game — “I’ve always just been a baseball guy” — can keep Remillard in the majors, not just for the remainder of this season but beyond.

It’s an obvious desire, but making any sort of forecast isn’t Remillard’s style.

“You never got this far in your plans, you know what I mean? You’re working to try to get to the big leagues, and once you get there, you’re just trying to take your game and see what you can do,” he said. “I think the approach is one day at a time and, ‘What can I do today to help the team?’ I know I keep repeating that phrase, but I think it’s so important to have that mindset and to stay in one moment at a time.

“I think anyone with a dream or belief in themselves, I think you have to (want this to be a long-term thing). I don’t think you get ahead of yourself figuring out how that happens or what that looks like or what the road even looks like. I just think if I have an opportunity today and I can execute that opportunity to the best of my ability, then one day at a time will equal one day at a time plus one day at a time until, hopefully, it all works out the way you want it to.”

There’s plenty to get through before that’s determined, including the important decisions facing Rick Hahn and the front office at the trade deadline and come the offseason.

But Remillard has an obvious supporter in Grifol, who’s ready to keep dolling out playing time as long as Remillard keeps doing what he’s been doing.

Which shows no signs of stopping.

“That’s all I’m here to do. I’m here to help the team,” Remillard said Friday. “Coming off the bench or starting a game, whatever they ask for. My job is to help the team win.

“If I can execute that, I had a great day.”

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