Door is open for both Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes to make Opening Day roster
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox Opening Day roster took shape Monday with a couple of late-breaking wrinkles: Left-handed hitting third baseman Jake Lamb was signed after being released by the Braves in camp, and veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy was given his release, a move that opens the door for catchers Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes to both make the 26-man squad.
Sources confirmed both moves, which the Sox have not announced. Opening Day is Thursday against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. The Sox did not have a Cactus League game Monday, and are expected to announce roster moves after their final game of the spring against the Rockies Tuesday.
Because of his experience, Lucroy, 34, came to camp with an edge to land the backup catcher’s spot behind Yasmani Grandal, and the former All-Star performed well enough, going 6-for-18 with one double in 14 games and earning praise from the veteran starting pitchers on the staff for his receiving and game calling skills.
But the left-handed hitting Collins, a 2016 first-round draft choice, and the right-handed hitting Mercedes were given more playing time and responded well offensively, Collins with a disciplined approach, .295 average, three homers and one double and Mercedes with .283 with three doubles and eight RBI.
Under the tutelage of new catching instructor Jerry Narron, Collins, 26, known as a subpar defender behind the plate, made advancements this spring. And Mercedes, 28, had excellent pop times of 1.8 and 1.9 seconds on throws to second base.
Collins has “been impressive in every regard,” La Russa said recently.
Lamb, 30, a 2017 All-Star with the Diamondbacks when he recorded 30 home runs and 105 RBI, has battled injuries since then. He struggled with the Diamondbacks during the first part of last season but was better with the Athletics posting a .267/.327/.556 hitting line, three homers and four doubles in 49 plate appearances. He tried catching on with the Braves as a backup third baseman during spring training but was released Saturday after going 7-for-36 in Cactus League games.
The loss of Eloy Jimenez to a ruptured pectoral tendon prompted the Sox to give rookie first baseman Andrew Vaughn, pegged to be the designated hitter, two starts in left field – a position he had not played. Lamb could be an option at DH but at the very least gives La Russa another left-handed bat off the bench and a backup at the infield corners. Lamb has played 44 games at first base during his career.
Lamb’s presence on the roster could mean infielder Danny Mendick is off it, with versatile switch-hitting outfielder/infielder Leury Garcia serving as a middle infield backup. When Vaughn plays left field, La Russa could replace him in the later innings with Billy Hamilton or Garcia, both of whom are faster and better defensively.
NOTES: With no game Monday, No. 3 starter Lance Lynn and relievers Aaron Bummer, Matt Foster and Jose Ruiz pitched in an intrasquad game. Ruiz is the favorite to land the last spot in the bullpen. Dylan Cease starts against the Rockies Tuesday (2:05 p.m.) in the final game of the spring.
*Right-hander Ryan Burr, who had an outside shot at making the team in the bullpen, was dealing with arm soreness late in camp, manager Tony La Russa said.
*Pitching matchups for the opening series against the Angels in Anaheim: Thursday, Lucas Giolito vs. Dylan Bundy; Friday, Dallas Keuchel vs. Andrew Heaney; Saturday, Lynn vs. Alex Cobb; Sunday, Dylan Cease vs. Shohei Ohtani. All are night games, with Sunday’s telecast on ESPN.