By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Not too long after White Sox rookie shortstop Tim Anderson got the call he had dreamed of came the call he wasn’t expecting.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Lead Detective In Investigation Explains On Witness Stand How Smollett Went From Victim To Suspect
On the other line was the former MVP he had just replaced. Despite the circumstances, Jimmy Rollins was still helping Anderson.
“I still lean on him if I have any questions,” Anderson said of Rollins. “He’s always able to help me.”
Early on in spring training, Rollins took aside the 22-year-old Anderson, the White Sox’s top prospect, and began to offer himself as a mentor. At that time, Rollins was the team’s new shortstop, looking to reignite the old flame. Anderson was expected to spend a full season in Triple-A Charlotte.
Circumstances changed for the White Sox. They had lost 20 of 26 games entering last Thursday, and the Rollins experiment had failed. In turn, Rollins was designated for assignment and Anderson got the promotion.
The White Sox were desperate. They can hope that down the road, Anderson becomes the kind of player Rollins was during his prime. In 2007, Rollins was the National League MVP, hitting .294 with 30 home runs while stealing 41 bases. Rollins made a career as an impact hitter and four-time Gold Glove shortstop.
Right now, the White Sox just need Anderson to produce. They had brought in Rollins to play above replacement level while Anderson developed in the minors. Then, they pulled the plug on that plan and called the youngster up.
Before he could hardly settle in, Anderson found himself hitting lead-off for the White Sox.
“You have to get acclimated,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of making a debut. “I think he’s done a very good job of just coming up here and playing, and not trying to do too much or slow it down too much — he’s just playing, and I think he’s comfortable.”
Reaching the majors is the goal of every minor leaguer, but staying and sustaining can be a challenge of its own.
White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino can remember his debut at Wrigley Field last July, one in which he tripled off Cubs starter Jon Lester. He understands what Anderson is seeing. That unfamiliar second deck of a big league ballpark can be intimidating.
“It’s loud, it’s huge, it’s on top of you,” Saladino said. “It’s only a couple steps from the on-deck circle to the box. It’s different. But that’s what you dream of. When you get out there, it’s game time.”
Anderson seems to have the right mindset for success in the majors, though that’s only half the battle. The White Sox have lofty expectations for Anderson, which is why they jumped to take him in the first round three years ago.
Potential is what presently defines Anderson, who comes to the majors with a slash line of .304/.325/.409 and an alarming 23-percent strikeout rate and three-percent walk rate this season in Charlotte. Anderson is the latest toolsy White Sox prospect that the ballclub is banking on for the future.
“I’m just continuing to do what I’ve been doing,” said Anderson, a self-proclaimed aggressive hitter. “Just keep fighting.”
Thus far, the White Sox haven’t come to Anderson about becoming a more patient hitter, nor have they tweaked anything to his plate approach. They’re willing to let him continue finding his feel in the majors.
Anderson may be an aggressive hitter, but he needs to show greater patience to lower his concerning strikeout rate and bolster his on-base percentage. His defense and base-running abilities should help the White Sox, but they need more of an impact.
The White Sox were desperate enough to call Anderson up earlier than they originally planned. They halted his development time in the minor leagues. There’s pressure to produce right away.
“It’s the same game,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s doing the same thing.”
At the very least, Anderson seems to have the right demeanor. Who knows whether the White Sox’s top prospect can use those tools to become a star, but that’s hardly the focus after calling him up so soon.
Right now, Anderson just needs to do what Rollins couldn’t: help the White Sox win games.MORE NEWS: Bulls Surprise Kelly College Prep Girls' Basketball Team With Afternoon Tournament