White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto earns backup role
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter March 25, 2014 10:16PM
Chicago White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto confers with starting pitcher John Danks (50) in the second inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Texas Rangers Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) ORG XMIT: AZMD110
Updated: March 25, 2014 11:13PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox liked what they saw of catcher Adrian Nieto early on in camp. The only drawback for the Rule 5 draft pick — and it’s significant — is how he will navigate a jump from Class A to the major leagues.
The Sox have decided that Nieto will be the one to back up Tyler Flowers behind the plate, choosing him over Hector Gimenez.
“He’s earned it,’’ manager Robin Ventura said Tuesday.
“The receiving ability and [controlling the] running game were more advanced than I thought. We are comfortable with that.
“I don’t think by any means he’s a finished product. Where he’s at is impressive from where he started out when he got here in the spring. I feel confident he can handle it.’’
Pitchers like throwing to Nieto, and he handles the bat well enough. A switch hitter, Nieto is 5-for-20 with two doubles and five RBI in Cactus League games. Nieto batted .282 with 11 home runs in advanced Class A in 2013.
Because Nieto was a Rule 5 pick, he must stay on the active roster all season or be put on waivers.
“The pitchers enjoy throwing to him,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “We’ve had conversations with each of the starters and most of the relievers about their comfort level with each of the catchers, and their reviews have been good.’’
Ventura didn’t rule out second baseman Gordon Beckham (left oblique strain) being ready for Opening Day on Monday, but it’s a long shot. He’s hitting and taking ground balls, but he’d need to get in an extended spring game before playing.
“There are people that want me to take it easy getting back,’’ Beckham said. “If I feel good enough to go, then we’ll go on Monday.’’
Beckham, who hasn’t played since March 14, could go on the disabled list retroactively so it wouldn’t have to be for 15 days if he starts the season on the DL.
“You don’t want to rush him to get back,’’ Ventura said. “You know it’s going to be cold.’’
Konerko and the opener
Ventura said the Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko designated-hitter platoon won’t always be a strict righty/lefty matchup, even though Konerko’s role has been defined as a DH against lefties and occasional sub for Jose Abreu at first.
Konerko, who’s retiring after the season, might get the start on his last Opening Day because it’s Opening Day.
While the Sox are at Birmingham to play their Class AA affiliate, Jose Quintana will pitch in a minor-league game in Arizona. Erik Johnson will do the same on Saturday.
Donnie Veal, Scott Downs, Matt Lindstrom, Maikel Cleto, David Purcey and Zach Putnam are slated to pitch in Birmingham.