Sox confident Vaughn can man left, perhaps even in opener


Here’s something no one saw coming when the sun came up Wednesday:

Andrew Vaughn could be the White Sox starting left fielder on Opening Day.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa said it was definitely a possibility that Vaughn, who had never played the position in a game prior to Friday’s spring contest, could be ready to assume starting duties as soon as next Thursday, when the team opens its regular-season schedule in Anaheim.

RELATED: Sox must reconsider Eloy's long-term future in outfield

“I really believe, based on what I’m going to see the next few days, that if he’s the best choice for Opening Day in left field, I’d play him,” La Russa said Friday. “I think it depends on what the roster looks like. We have some choices to make with the last couple of spots. One of them has to do with an outfielder, so it may be the outfielder is a better choice for it.

“In this case, I’d be confident playing him. But it may be somebody else.”

La Russa and general manager Rick Hahn surprised when they not only included Vaughn among the options to fill in for the injured Eloy Jiménez in left field but gave a strong enough endorsement, particularly the manager, that he seemed one of the top choices.

It’s a lot on Vaughn's plate, that’s for sure, considering he hasn’t played a pro game above A-ball and was already facing questions about how he’d be able to contribute offensively. A strong spring has done away with the bulk of those, but now it seems Vaughn will be getting his first taste of the major leagues while simultaneously learning a new position.

But the White Sox aren’t showing anything but the utmost confidence that Vaughn is up to the task.

“The makeup of Andrew Vaughn, and this goes back to the evaluations with our amateur scouts, was that not only does he have an advanced approach at the plate but just the makeup in general,” said Chris Getz, the White Sox player-development head and assistant to the general manager. “He’s a guy that’s always under control, there’s no panic. That’s why we feel he’s going to be successful in the box. That will bode well defensively, as well. He’s very even keeled and can handle adversity well, and that’s why we are willing to challenge him with whatever is in front of him.”

“I'm certain that the worst he'll be is a little above-average. I think he'll be above-average,” La Russa said. “He can concentrate. Infielders are used to jumps. It's not unique to him or foreign to him. He'll be fine.”

As La Russa mentioned Thursday, Vaughn is not exactly starting from scratch as an outfielder. But he’s not far off. The White Sox worked Vaughn out in the outfield throughout last season at the team’s alternate training site in Schaumburg, and that work has continued this spring.

But Friday was the first time Vaughn played the position in a game. With just four games left on the Cactus League schedule, the White Sox have very little time to figure out whether Vaughn will be able to play left field on a regular basis once the games start counting.

While La Russa expressed overwhelming confidence, Getz wasn’t ready to crown Vaughn the team’s starting left fielder for the entire season just yet.

“Fortunately, these are exhibition games, spring training games. A nice opportunity to get out there and just build that comfort. Let’s get through today, and then we’ll figure out what’s in front of us,” Getz said. “To say he’s going to be a left fielder in July for us, we don’t need to go there quite yet. I don’t think we need to put that on Andrew Vaughn’s plate. Let’s just go out there today and have some fun and pretend you’re playing in Little League again.”

Indeed, the White Sox have multiple options on the big league roster to help patch the hole in left field. Leury García and Adam Engel are experienced outfielders and can do the job if Vaughn can’t. But it also might not be so black and white, and La Russa could opt to put his puzzle together in a multitude of ways, utilizing a number of positions and involving players like Vaughn, García, Engel, Yasmani Grandal, Zack Collins and José Abreu at a variety of different spots on the field.

But as La Russa mentioned Thursday, he plans to give Vaughn plenty of opportunity in left field over the final days of spring training.

It might all end with the rookie starting at a position he’s never played before in his big league debut as the White Sox open a season they hope ends in a championship.

Click here to subscribe to the White Sox Talk Podcast for free.

Contact Us