The 2021 White Sox entered the season with a huge question mark at the designated hitter position. Andrew Vaughn was expected to fill the spot, but when Eloy Jimenez went down with a shoulder injury, everything changed. So, the Sox start the season with a question as to just who will be the DH this season.
Former first-round draft pick Zack Collins got the nod on Opening Night in Anaheim. He went 0 for 4 in the Sox 4-3 loss to the Angels. He got the start because the Angels started a right-hander. Collins is not expected to get many at-bats against lefties this season.
2021 White Sox – Has the Age of Mercedes Begun?
Enter Yermin Mercedes, a 28-year-old rookie, who had one at-bat in the 2019 season. On Friday night, Mercedes got the start at designated hitter against left-hander Andrew Heaney. Finally, Mercedes, the kind of guy you just have to root for, got his first major league start. Fans who have been following his progress with intrigue finally got a chance to see him start a game.
In his first at-bat in the third inning, Mercedes lined a ball into left-center field for his first MLB hit. In his second at-bat, with runners on second and third, Mercedes hit a ground ball through the hole on the left side for a two-run single, his first two MLB RBIs. In his third at-bat, he lined over the shortstop for another single. When he came to the plate the fourth time, he stayed inside a pitch that was tailing in towards him and muscled it into right-center for his fourth hit.
The Exclamation Mark
With his fourth hit, he became one of only three White Sox players to have four hits in his first MLB start. However, he would get one more shot in the top of the ninth inning. With two on and two out, the 2021 White Sox were looking for some insurance runs. Facing a new reliever, Mercedes fell behind 0-2. On the next pitch, he pulled a shot into the left-field corner for a double, his first extra-base hit. With that, he became the only Sox player to ever have five hits in his first MLB start.
Mercedes ended the night five for five with four RBIs, and an OPS of 2.200. Truly a historic first start by any measure. Having toiled in minor league ball for 10 years makes his achievement even sweeter. No matter what else happened, Mercedes had a night that he will never forget.
It is impossible to say how Mercedes’ historic night will impact the 2021 White Sox. One would certainly hope, though, that manager Tony LaRussa will reward him with more opportunities very soon. Even though the White Sox needs left-handed hitting, he has earned a chance to see what he can do. Collins will get his chances as well, but it would be hard to sit Mercedes tonight after his performance Friday night.
That decision will be up to LaRussa and his coaching staff, but fans will be disappointed if Mercedes is not in the lineup tonight. The righty/lefty matchup is real, but how do you sit a guy who had five hits in one game? The old saying about playing the hot hand has to come into play, doesn’t it?
So, the 2021 White Sox DH derby is underway. Mercedes has fired the first shot in this battle and staked his claim. Yes, it is incredibly early, to say the least, but here’s hoping that he will get his chance. God knows he has waited long enough to show what he can do. Well done, Yermin!
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