Yoann Moncada felt “on time” at the plate during rehab with Triple-A Charlotte as he recovered from a right oblique strain.
That readiness was on display on Thursday when Moncada hit his first home run of the season at an ideal time for the Chicago White Sox.
The Sox overtook the New York Yankees by three runs in the seventh inning at Guaranteed Rate Field, but there were two runners and Moncada at the plate. Third baseman hit a 0–1 sinker over the wall of center-field from reliever Jonathan Loisiga, which eventually led to a home run in a 15–7 defeat.
“I went there (to Charlotte) to take a good approach, the same approach I was taking,” Moncada said through an interpreter ahead of Friday’s game. “I went over there to find a good pitch to hit and got a good swing and hit the ball somewhere hard.”
Moncada started the season with the Sox on Monday. He hit four in his fifth game on Saturday in his first 17 at-bats against the Yankees.
26-year-old Moncada entered Saturday with a drop of .235/.316/.412, with a home run, three RBIs, two runs and a walk. He had one hit in each of his first four games, which included going 1-for-4 in a 10-4 loss to the Yankees on Friday.
“I was feeling really good and I still feel good,” Moncada said. “The most important thing for me is to work hard and continue to put my attitude to the plate.”
Moncada suffered an injury during the final day of spring training in Glendale, Ariz. The Sox placed him on the injured list on April 5.
“I thought it was going to be a short time (away), but it was much more than that,” Moncada told reporters on Monday. “But I’m really happy to be back with the team.”
Moncada said he was “100%. I can’t feel anything. I’m ready to go.”
Charlotte’s time helped with the preparation. He reduced 318/.360/.636 with a double, two homers and five RBIs in six matches with the Knights from April 30 to May 7.
“I’ve said it before, I’ve come to really believe and respect what happens to (manager) Wes (Hales) and (hitting coach) Chris (Johnson) in Charlotte, they’ve been right every time last year. And this year,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said on Saturday. “(Friday’s Yankees starter Gerrit) Cole comes out there and punches (Moncada), he punches the other guys who’ve been here. He’s throwing the ball well. (Moncada) hits base (fifth) against Cole). I’m sure he’s going to help us.”
The Sox secured another bat to lengthen the lineup this weekend, with outfielder Andrew Vaughan returning from the injured list. Vaughan suffered an injury to his right hand on April 29. The Sox reinstated him from IL on Friday and he started on Saturday, batting fifth while serving as the designated hitter.
“Depth,” La Russa said of Vaughn and Moncada being back. “And if you see (left fielder) Eloy (Jimnez) walking around, he’s going to be around soon too.”
Jimenez is recovering on April 23 from an injury that required surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon at the back of his right knee. His estimated recovery at the time of injury was six to eight weeks.
“I try to be careful with what I ask because it looks like I’m pushing, so all I say is how he’s running, how’s his legs,” La Russa said. “Everybody assumes that his progress is really impressive. But there has to be a certain buildup in muscle, and you can’t move that fast.”
The Sox is envisioning the roster in full force. He took it a step closer with Moncada in the mix.
“We are happy to have him back,” La Russa said after a 15-7 loss on Thursday. “He’s already taking good swings. That (home run) was clutch.”
Moncada finished third in the American League in 2021 with a .375 on-base percentage and leads the Sox with 33 doubles. After all of April’s disappearance, she’s ready to contribute.
“The way I’m taking my approach, that’s what I’m trying to do and try to swing good pitches,” Moncada said on Friday. “Just be prepared to hit the fastball.
“My real focus right now is to make sure I’m swinging to hit the ball somewhere hard and swing on strike.”