“I want to see the Yermin fans, the Yerminator fans” at home opener, Mercedes said. The feeling is probably mutual.
If there’s a White Sox Opening Day roster projection out there with Yermin Mercedes’ name on it, we want to see it.
The truth is, it probably doesn’t exist.
Projecting what Mercedes did in his first four games this season? Not a chance.
Mercedes’ track record as a good-hitting catcher in 10 seasons of minor league ball, as well as his throwing skills exhibited during spring training notwithstanding, most Sox roster forecasts had Yasmani Grandal and veteran Jonathan Lucroy as the 1-2 punch, with former first-round draft choice Zack Collins having a shot as the backup or a third catcher because of his left-handed bat.
Collins was the talk of spring training, even though Mercedes also had another good spring after hitting a team-high four Cactus League homers while batting .346 in spring training last year. All that got him was one plate appearance during the regular season.
Mercedes not only made the team this year after the Sox released Lucroy, who was the Nationals’ Opening Day starter Tuesday, he has done things nobody has done in the history of baseball. He is one of the best stories in the game in the first week of the season.
“Hollywood golden ridiculous,” is how broadcaster Jason Benetti called it.
It’s Mercedes’ golden world right now and we’re just along for the fascinating ride, for however long it lasts. The ride stops at Guaranteed Rate Field for the home opener Thursday, and if you want to see Mercedes in the lineup.
And he wants to see you.
“I want to see my fans over there on Opening Day in Chicago,” Mercedes said Monday after going 3-for-4 in the Sox’ 6-0 win over the Mariners, raising his average to .667 (12-for-18). “I want everyone to talk to me. I want to see my people. I want to see the Yermin fans, the Yerminator fans. I’m so excited, I can’t wait.”
Manager Tony La Russa never expected to use Mercedes as much as he has. But the 5-11, 245-pound 28-year-old rookie, often with his shirt tail hanging out, became the first player to start a season going 8-for-8 as his designated hitter. After starting him in the Sox’ second game, La Russa hasn’t been able to keep him out of the lineup.
Mercedes’ 12 hits through Monday were the most by any player in the modern era over his first four career starts. He was the first player with three-plus hits in a game three times in his first four career starts since Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella in 1948.
Mercedes’ 12 hits were the most by any Sox player over his first four games of a season, surpassing Ducky Holmes’ 11 in 1904.
He is also the first Sox player with three-plus hits in a game three times in his first four games of a season.
La Russa has been trying to get at-bats for the left-handed hitting Jake Lamb, but he was committed to Mercedes as the DH only for the first two games of the Mariners series with two left-handers pitching.
Mercedes jerseys are being manufactured for purchase to keep up with expected demand, Mercedes is capturing the fancy of the baseball world with his bat and boyish good nature and his at-bats have become appointment television.
La Russa knows he almost has to play him Thursday.
“I’d be booed in the introductions,” he said.
With Eloy Jimenez out, Mercedes’ offense has been a welcome, needed boost. Mercedes’ phenomenal run is not sustainable, but he does own a .302/.366/.491 career hitting line in 2,128 minor league at-bats. He has a sound two-strike approach and possesses power.
As Grandal told him, just keep doing what you’re doing and be yourself.
“He said, ‘Keep it Yermin,’ ” Mercedes said Monday. “I’m Yermin so I don’t want to do another thing. Just be the same guy all the time. Don’t change anything.
“I tried to do another thing but it wasn’t working much. But then I came back, and I do Yermin.”
Which has been more than enough, and all that everybody wants.