Danny Mendick fills in for White Sox All-Star with ‘gold star’ performance

It’s hard to imagine the White Sox absorbing a bigger blow than losing Tim Anderson, which they did when the All-Star shortstop went down with a groin strain last Sunday.

It’s also hard to imagine the Sox getting a better contribution from Danny Mendick as Anderson’s fill-in.

When Anderson went down with a groin strain during a game against the Cubs last Sunday, Mendick took over at shortstop and started a 9-for-21 streak with three RBI and five runs scored. In the Sox’ 6-5 win over the Rays Sunday, one of their bigger wins of the season, Mendick was in Anderson’s leadoff spot and in Anderson fashion, singled to start a four-run inning against lefty Ryan Yarbrough.

“You can never replace a TA but you try to step up,” Mendick said. “I’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity, one has presented itself and I go out there and do what I can. I know what I can bring and I know I can help this team win.”

A 22nd-round draft pick in 2015, Mendick, 28, is batting .318/.362/.455 with an .816 OPS, which ranks third on the Sox, albeit in 17 games and 48 plate appearances. Only Anderson and Jose Abreu are above Mendick in OPS.

Need more numbers to prove Mendick’s value thus far? His 140 weighted runs created plus ranks third on the team behind Anderson (163) and Abreu (143), and he’s a 1.1 wins above replacement player per Baseball Reference, which ranks above infielders Yoan Moncada, Leury Garcia and Josh Harrison.

“I’ve known it’s just a matter of proving it in the big leagues,” Mendick said. “An opportunity like this is all you can ask for.”

Defensively, Mendick doesn’t have Anderson’s range but he has played shortstop, second base, third base and left field this season without making an error. His inning-ending play on Isaac Paredes’ soft ground ball with the bases loaded in a 3-2 win over the Rays Saturday earned “a gold star” from manager Tony La Russa.

“I knew [Kendall Graveman] was going to throw a slider and I had a feeling he was going to be a little bit out in front,” Mendick said. “As soon as I saw his swing I started moving in and it was a close play, but you practice those, right? It was nice to get it done.”

The blip on Mendick’s week was tagging up and getting thrown out at second base on what should have been a tying sacrifice fly for Yasmani Grandal in a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Mendick was out before Reese McGuire crossed home, and the Sox lost by one run.

“I play aggressive,” Mendick said. “It was a mistake, it was a tough one, and you learn from it. You have to go from there. Situation comes up again like that, hopefully in the playoffs, and you make the right decision.”

After the game, he apologized to La Russa.

“Sometimes you feel like you messed something up,” Mendick said. “You take accountability for it.”

Mendick can play the infield and outfield and is the Sox’ emergency catcher. He also pitched a scoreless inning at Fenway Park last season. He owns a career .249/.306/.356 hitting line with a .662 OPS in four seasons, a career log consisting of 137 games and 388 plate appearances.

“I want to play this game for as long as I can,” he said. “This is a good start, show what I can do and whatever my role turns into I’ll give it my very best.

La Russa has started Mendick in every game but one (Leury Garcia got the other) since Anderson’s injury. When Anderson returns, La Russa might consider playing Mendick at second base — Josh Harrison (.181/.265/.276) and Garcia (.189/.199/.265) have played 22 and 27 games, respectively, at second with minimal production.

“Danny’s playing real well and that’s supposed to be the critera, right?” La Russa said. “The more you play the better you play.”

DODGERS AT SOX

Tuesday: Mitch White (1-1, 4.79 ERA) vs. Michael Kopech (1-2, 2.20), 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH, TBS, 1000-AM

Wednesday: Tony Gonsolin (6-0, 1.59) vs. Johnny Cueto (0-2, 2.92), 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM

Thursday: Tyler Anderson (7-0, 2.59) vs. Dylan Cease (4-2, 3.69), 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM

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