Playing right field ‘no big deal’ for new White Sox outfielder AJ Pollock

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A.J. Pollock has played just six of his six career games in the outfield in right field. That number figures to grow considerably with the White Sox, who acquired the 34-year-old veteran in a trade with the Dodgers for Craig Kimbrel Friday.

On Saturday, Pollock wore a Sox uniform for the first time, six days before Opening Day, and was about to wear it playing right field in the Sox’ Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks.

“No big deal,” Pollock said.

“You just get a couple BPs, take a couple fly balls out there and I’ll be good,” Pollock said. ”Similar concepts, just going the other way. I’m not too worried.”

The 2015 Gold Glove center fielder as a Diamanback, Pollock will also play left when manager Tony La Russa gives what he calls a “half day” off to Eloy Jimenez, a markedly lesser option defensively than Pollock, or if Jimenez needs a full day or days – in the event of an injury. Pollock can serve the same purpose in center field for Luis Robert.

The Sox were one of the worst defensive teams in baseball last season, which is no way for a team with World Series aspirations to operate. With 2020 Gold Glove winner Robert, 2018 Gold Glove finalist Adam Engel and Pollock and his added flexibility to the mix, the Sox outfield brings credentials to a group that includes Jimenez and two first basemen, Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets, who are still learning on the job.

Pollock, meanwhile, is getting acquainted with a different corner and a different clubhouse, which includes former Dodgers teammate Joe Kelly, who was telling Pollock Thursday night he was about to be trading.

“He said, ‘yeah guys are talking,’ Pollock said. “I was like, ‘it’s Joe, it’s not going to happen.’ ”

On Friday morning, he saw Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman’s name pop up on his phone, showed his wife, Kate, and said, “I’m gone. Please be somewhere cool.’ And he said White Sox and I was like, ‘Chicago, that’s a good squad, I’m ready to go.’ ”

Kate is expecting the couple’s second child in 10 days, which is the only “stressful” thing about the trade — their first child was born at 24 weeks — so he’ll likely take paternity leave.

“I talked to Tony, he is super supportive, I know he’s a big family guy,” Pollock said. “So early on in the season we’ll enjoy that and get back at it.”

By that time, Pollock will probably be feeling comfortable in right field already.

“Wherever Tony wants to put me, all three spots I’ll feel good and do a good job for for him out there,” Pollock said. “Whatever Tony wants, I’m game.”

“He’s a really good athlete and has a good arm,” La Russa said. “So that’s easy to do. If anything, he protects us wherever we have to protect out there.”

About the same time Pollock was talking outside the Sox clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, Kimbrel was giving up two homers to the Giants about 100 yards away at the stadium the Sox and Dodgers share during spring training. It was much too soon to declare the deal a victory for the Sox, of course, but the Sox do feel good about getting a proven player coming off one his best seasons for a proven pitcher who struggled in his role with the Sox during the second half of 2021.

“Trades are a part of the business,” Pollock said. “I look at where I could have been. These guys just kicked our butt a couple days ago [in a Cactus League game] and I saw that lineup. It’s a cool team to be a part of, and we’re excited.”

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