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Healthy shoulder gives White Sox’ Nicky Delmonico healthy shot at returning to big leagues

Healthy shoulder gives White Sox’ Nicky Delmonico healthy shot at returning to big leagues

White Sox outfielder Nicky Delmonico bats against the San Diego Padres during a spring training baseball game March 2, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) | AP Photos

To know how popular left fielder Nicky Delmonico is among teammates was to see him in the visitors clubhouse in Baltimore last April 22 after Delmonico was recalled from Class AAA Charlotte.

To know how popular left fielder Nicky Delmonico is among teammates was to see him in the visitors clubhouse in Baltimore last April 22 after Delmonico was recalled from Class AAA Charlotte.

Everyone with whom Delmonico came within 10 feet of zoomed in for a bro hug, handshakes or wrap-around slaps on the back. If you didn’t know better, you might have guessed that guy with the ear-to-ear grin receiving all that love was an MVP candidate, not a career .227 White Sox hitter who was just happy to be back in the big leagues.

“Because he’s a grinder, because he’s genuine, because he’s the guy that gets along with everybody,” manager Rick Renteria said, trying to explain why everybody loves Nicky. “He’s a pro. People love players that embrace the roles they’re given at any given time.”

Perhaps they love how Delmonico exudes his appreciation for the game he almost walked away from because of abuse issues with (prescribed) Adderall and a 50-game suspension that resulted from it when he was a Brewers prospect six years ago. The son of a Division I college baseball coach with brothers who played in college and the minor leagues, the game was Delmonico’s life and the dugout his home.

“All the struggles that I went through. … I almost lost this game because of what I went through,” Delmonico said. “So I really appreciate coming to the field every day. Whether you go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, just being in the clubhouse and talking to the guys and being with your team, that’s what I’ve been my whole life, since I was a kid growing up.’’

Delmonico’s popularity grew beyond the clubhouse when, after his first big league callup from Charlotte in August 2017 he reached base safely in a franchise record 13 consecutive games to begin a career, hitting .396 with three homers, two doubles and eight RBI during the streak. On a rebuilding team scuffling toward 95 losses, Delmonico captivated a fan base with movie character’s name, good looks and clutch hits. He was trending on Twitter.

“Nicky has the ‘It factor,’ ” Renteria said at the time.

Delmonico would hit .262/.347/.421 with 12 homers in 99 games, but a sore left shoulder that began to nag him that season was barking again in 2018, and a broken bone in his right hand sideline him for a month. He would hit .215 in 88 games that year.

In 2019 he opened the season at Charlotte, joined the Sox for 21 games and hit .206 with one homer. The shoulder ached, and a decision was made. He would have surgery in May, and the Sox released him in June.

Fast forward to 2020. With the torn labrum and rotator cuff reparied, a new appreciation for baseball has been found. Delmonico, 27, was invited back to Sox spring training on a minor league contract this year, and few gave him much of a chance of making the team.

After smacking the ball around with the look of a stronger, newer version of his old self, he emerged as candidate to win a job on the big league roster as an extra outfielder and 26th man, a possibility enhanced when catchers Yermin Mercedes, a spring phenom, and Zack Collins, a first-round draft choice, were optioned to Charlotte two weeks ago.

The Sox might be more inclined to go with a versatile infielder than the left-handed hitting Delmonico, but his odds have improved from when he signed in December.

“He’s swinging the bat very well,” Renteria said recently. “[He is] certainly in the mix.”

Renteria said that right before the coronavirus pandemic halted spring training and start of the regular season. The sense of uncertainty of when baseball will resume has no doubt re-introduced Delmonico to those feelings of cherishing what he loves.

“Being healthy finally, and going through the routine again of not having to go the training room and being there all day and figuring out if you’re going to feel 80 percent, 60 percent that day, just mentally every day coming in and knowing that I feel good and waking up feeling good is big for me,” Delmonico said a day before spring training was suspended.

The decision to have surgery wasn’t easy but he knows now it was the correct one. Catching up to fastballs isn’t as tough as it had become when he was hurt.

You get to the big leagues and you want to stay, so it’s hard to make that decision — OK I need to get surgery — and not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to play your last big league game.”

Delmonico’s swing looks more compact but in reality, he said, he’s just healthy and stronger. A home run and three doubles were among his eight hits (in 32 at-bats) this spring.

The aim now is to contribute in any way in 2020, whenever that might be.

I’ve gone through the struggles of losing seasons like everyone else,” Delmonico said. “And I want to see this thing through. I want to see my family succeed. I want to see my family win the World Series. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a playoff team, whether it’s in the minors or the big leagues. Just to experience that with the guys I call my brothers.”

Source : Daryl Van Schouwen Link