ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When he batted .250/.324/.506 with 11 homers in 54 games as a rookie last season, Gavin Sheets made an impression, enough of one for White Sox management to trust him as a needed left-handed power hitting piece in their 2022 lineup.
Sheets was supposed to blend in with the Sox lineup core of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal and Eloy Jimenez, but the struggles or absence of four of them has cast a brighter glare on the .206./273/.328. hitting line Sheets took into the Sox’ game against the Rays Saturday.
“I need to put some consistent at-bats together,” Sheets told the Sun-Times.
Sheets made adjustments working in the hitting cage recently, studied video from last season and has detected differences in his setup and moves he was making. The big thing, he said, is how pitchers, armed with expanded scouting reports on him, adjusted.
“It’s tough, they’re pitching me a little differently, I have to adjust to that,” he said. “It’s a game of adjustments.”
The Sox were questioned for not going outside the organization for an impact left-handed bat in the offseason, and as the team slogs around the bottom of numerous offensive categories, the questions still stand. Sheets’ showing in 2021, the depth of the Sox lineup around him and the desire to progress his development were reasons why they didn’t.
Sheets’ .608 OPS is .220 points lower than last season.
“I proved I can do damage on the fastball last year,” he said. “Not getting as many fastballs, so it’s about picking out offspeed pitches you can do damage with. Just trying to be aggressive in the zone. I can get stuck sometimes when I get too passive.”
A first baseman by trade, Sheets has played in 16 games in right field, three in left field and nine at first base. He has DH’d 13 times but was out of the lineup Sunday against a left-handed starter.
Right-hander Lance Lynn is slated for his third start for Charlotte on a rehab assignment (knee) Wednesday.
“Depends on how he feels, but there’s a chance,” manager Tony La Russa said.
At Detroit June 13 would be earliest possibility for Lynn’s first start.
*Eloy Jimenez played his first rehab game in left field at Charlotte after DHing his first four. Jimenez came out of his first game with soreness in his right hamstring area and his return doesn’t appear imminent.
“They don’t feel his legs are ready yet,” La Russa said.
Jimenez and La Russa have exchanged multiple texts. “Full of life, lots of advice,” La Russa said.
*Tim Anderson (groin) is getting daily treatment while traveling with the team and gradually increasing his work. He did some running Saturday and Sunday.
The Sox are off Monday. Michael Kopech (Tuesday), Johnny Cueto (Wednesday) and Dylan Cease (Thursday) are the probable starters for the Dodgers series at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mitch White, Tony Gonsolin and left-hander Tyler Anderson are scheduled for the Dodgers.