By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mistakes and corrections are a part of any team going through a reconstruction. After a tough loss to the Twins on Friday night, the school house was definitely open for White Sox rookie outfielder Jacob May.
The potential tying runs were on base with two outs in the ninth. Both baserunners had walked, but May chose to swing at the first pitch. May hit a sinking fastball to second base for the last out of the game.
With a young player in his first week of major league ball, mistakes are bound to happen. In this case, anxiety rather than baseball IQ caused a poor decision. Manager Rick Renteria met with May after the contest.
“More than anything, emotion was a factor,” Renteria said. “When emotions take over, you lose sight of the situation. You need to say ‘What is really going on? What is the pitcher doing? Is he in trouble? Was he throwing strikes?’ We broke it down (with May) last night. We spoke to him to help him understand what was going on. This way, he can take a step back, go in there and slow it down a little bit.
“Everybody goes in there wanting to be the guy. In this instance, you have to prepare them for all the particular situations. Getting on base and working the at-bat would have been just as good as getting a base hit. That goes back to taking in account what the pitcher was doing and taking advantage of the situation.”
Renteria and the coaching staff walk the fine line between teaching and at the same time limiting a young player’s aggressiveness.
“We bring them in and teach them the difference,” Renteria said. “Then you let games played and experience kind of filter in. As that starts to happen, you begin to reel it in and slow the game done a bit.”
For an All-Star like Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, as Renteria referenced, he might have the same approach May did but have a different outcome.
“The thing about that is even Jacob could have that same thought process knowing the pitcher walked two guys,” Renteria said. “I think players have to develop a process with pitch selection. (Cabrera) could go in there thinking he is going to get a good pitch. If he doesn’t get his pitch, he ends up laying off. Those things are learned with experience and skill. That will not be the last time (May) is in that situation. He also won’t be the last person to get into that situation where it doesn’t work out.”
On Saturday, player development showed up for Renteria’s club with a winning type of approach.
A heads-up at-bat by a youngster turned into the first run of the White Sox’s 6-2 victory over the Twins. Tyler Saladino doubled to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Shortstop Tim Anderson got a pitch to handle and sent the ball on the ground to second base, advancing the runner to third. Melky Cabrera’s groundout plated that all-important first run.
Anderson’s small ball approach is also known as winning baseball. He didn’t slow down his motion or slacken his bat speed. Instead, Anderson knew hitting the ball hard to the right side would move the runner and give him a chance for a base hit the other way.
“I was certainly looking for something to move the runner over with,” Anderson said. “The key for me was not trying to do too much with the at-bat. This is definitely something we have to buy into as a team.”
Renteria was pleased with the first run going up on the board in the first inning.
“That is just baseball,” Renteria said. “We want him to drive the run in. At bare minimum, get the guy over. He did that, and we executed scoring that first run.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.