HOUSTON — Yoan Moncada missed the series against the Rays this week and, while he returned to the lineup Thursday to face the Astros, the White Sox third baseman still wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
The Sox said he had a sinus infection, but what he felt reminded him of last season when he tested positive for the Coronavirus. Moncada had body aches and briefly lost his senses of taste and smell and is still feeling slightly weaker than normal.
“I was a little worried,” said Moncada, whose fears were alleviated when he tested negative for COVID-19.
On his first chance in the field Thursday, Moncada short-hopped second baseman Danny Mendick trying to start a double play and was charged with an error. But Moncada knows he belongs on the field when he’s not at 100 percent.
“The team needs me,” Moncada said, speaking through translator Billy Russo. “Even though I’m not 100%, I can still help this team.
“I just need to find a way to start feeling better and stronger and that’s what I’m working on, working with the trainers to feel that way for me to start feeling better and stronger.”
Moncada is performing like he did in 2019, when he was the Sox’ top position player in wins above replacement. He’s their top position player in 2021, batting .276/.400/.403 with five homers, 32 RBI and 31 runs scored. He’s second among third basemen in All-Star voting behind Rafael Devers of the White Sox.
“That would be a blessing,” he said of being an All-Star for the first time.
But Moncada said his focus is on helping the team win games.
“We’re a team and I know that the easy response would be ‘I don’t want to play,’ ’’ Moncada said. “But no, I want to play, I want to help this team, I want to help my teammates to win games. And that’s why I have to find a way to get through this.”
Garcia sidelined with sore knee
Leury Garcia, the versatile infielder outfielder who is batting .327 with seven RBI and eight walks in his last 16 games, has a right sore knee, La Russa revealed, keeping him out of the lineup a second straight night.
The Sox’ bench was already thinner than usual after pitcher Zack Burdi was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to bolster the pitching supply for this series. Burdi came up when outfielder Adam Eaton went on the injured list with a hamstring strain.
Slumping designated hitter Yermin Mercedes and Adam Engel, who has been playing every other day as he eases his way back from his hamstring injury, were the only available position players on the bench.
“Hopefully we get through it without him,” La Russa said.
Outfielder Billy Hamilton (oblique strain) is with the team and ‘felt a little pinch’ taking a swing Thursday, La Russa said, an indication his return is not near. Hamilton would probably need a short rehab assignment once he returns to 100 percent.
Third base prospect Jake Burger, a 2017 first-round draft choice coming back from two Achilles injuries, started a game for Triple-A Charlotte at second base Thursday.
“You want to make sure there’s different ways, if he earns a promotion, to get in the lineup,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Burger is batting .264/.304/.535 with eight homers for Charlotte.