If Yoan Moncada was nervous Wednesday afternoon before playing in his first game with the Chicago White Sox, he did a good job hiding it.
As he waited for batting practice, the 22-year-old phenom paced around the Sox’s clubhouse with bat in hand.
When he wasn’t on the move or practicing his swing, Moncada stopped to check out the Tampa Bay-Oakland game that was on the clubhouse TV.
Clearly, the promising second baseman has baseball on the brain and was eager to get going.
“I’m happy,” Moncada said through White Sox translator Billy Russo. “I’m trying to enjoy the moment and enjoy this opportunity. I’m in the big leagues right now, and this is where I want to be.”
Moncada is the first of the Sox’s touted stable of prospects to make it to the majors, and he was ranked as the No. 1 player in the minors while batting .285/.381/.452 with 9 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, 36 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 80 games with Class AAA Charlotte.
After Tuesday night’s late trade that sent Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, general manager Rick Hahn announced Moncada was coming up.
White Sox fans already are learning a rebuild requires plenty of patience, but they were fired up to see Moncada’s debut in Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers.
The Sox lost to Los Angeles 9-1 in a game called by rain after two outs in the top of the eighth inning.
“I love his makeup,” manager Rick Renteria said of his new second baseman. “He’s driven. There are people who see him and he’s a very gifted athlete, so sometimes he does things very easily that may be misconstrued as being nonchalant. But he can get to balls; he can do things seemingly without any effort.
“One of the biggest things we needed to know is that in talking to him today he’s ready to go. He’s ready to give you everything he’s got. And he knows what we expect, what we ask of him.”
Batting sixth against the Dodgers, Moncada was greeted with rousing applause from the crowd of 24,907 when he came to the plate for the first time in the second inning.
Moncada took two straight strikes from Los Angeles right-hander Kenta Maeda before coaxing a walk while seeing eight pitches.
In his second at-bat, with two outs in the fourth, Moncada just missed an extra-base hit into the right-field corner before grounding out to first base. He lined out to center field in his third at-bat.
“I felt good,” Moncada said. “I think I executed my plan. I didn’t get any hits, but I hit the ball hard.”
Renteria liked what he saw from the newcomer.
“He had some nice at-bats,” the manager said. “He looked very comfortable. He didn’t looked overwhelmed.”
With one game under his belt, Moncada can start to get settled in.
“To see one of the young men here with us, they’re excited to get a taste of what the future is going to look like,” Renteria said of Moncada’s reception. “He’s being welcomed by a large city that’s looking forward to having here for a long time.”
Moncada’s clubhouse locker is between fellow Cuban/big brother figure Jose Abreu and veteran left fielder Melky Cabrera.
Abreu picked up Moncada from O’Hare airport before Wednesday’s game.
“It was a good ride,” Abreu said through a translator. “We got a little bit nervous because the traffic was bad, but it was good. He’s going to do great here. He’s an outstanding player, and I’m going to be here right by his side to help him in anything that he needs help.
“Of course, he’s going to have some butterflies flying around his stomach the first game and probably during the first week or so, but I’m going to be there for him.”