Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

Some pop at the top: De Aza getting it done for White Sox

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Alejandro De Aza could have buried his head in his hands and cried, 'why me?'

Instead, he worked his way back and said, "why not me?''

Crushed by two broken ankles (one a stress fracture) that impeded his career path in 2007 and '08, De Aza has a new appreciation for good health and is making the most of his latest opportunity to be an everyday player. Staying angry about his bad luck wasn't going to help.

"No, things happen,'' he said. "I was angry at the beginning but after a while I said, 'I'm going to work my way back and get healthy.' ''

De Aza has been more than adequate as the White Sox every day center fielder and leadoff man with a .333 on-base percentage, but he's also giving them something they didn't have in recent years with Juan Pierre - extra-base power.

The 28 year-old De Aza, who took a .283 batting average and .353 on-base percentage into the Sox game against the Oakland A's Tuesday, has three homers, two triples and two doubles, good for a .550 slugging percentage. He has scored 14 runs to rank among the leaders in the American League. Power at the top of the order is always a bonus.

"He has it,'' manager Robin Ventura said, "and the ones he's hit were important. It's not like he's hitting them when they don't matter.''

De Aza led off the Sox' 4-2 win at Cleveland at April 9 with a homer against Josh Tomlin, he hit a two-run shot in the sixth against Dan Wheeler two days later to give the Sox a three-run lead in a 10-6 win, and he homered against Tommy Hunter to give the Sox a 4-1 lead in their only win over the four-game series against the Orioles last week.

"To start the game he's your regular leadoff hitter where he works the counts and is doing things but once it turns over he's just another hitter,'' Ventura said. "It's not like he's a gimmick at the top. He's a quality hitter.''

The left-handed hitting De Aza has done a little of this and a little of that, the sum of which has added up to a lot. He bunted for a single in the first game of the three-game series sweep of the Mariners on Friday and stole his second base in three attempts. He was 2-for-5 with an RBI single in the top of the ninth that gave Philip Humber a four-run cushion to finish off his perfect game on Saturday. Humber and Ventura both cited that fourth run as a key to letting Humber not have to worry about the win-loss result and focusing on the feat.

The jury is still out on whether De Aza can sustain the production over the long haul. For the first time in his career, he is an every day player.

"Everyone wants the opportunity to play every day,'' De Aza said. "I have it now, so it's something to enjoy.''

De Aza thought he would have that opportunity when he won the Opening Day center fielder's job with the Florida Marlins in 2007.

Before the injuries, he projected as a solid defensive center fielder with plus speed and compact, line-drive swing that produced on-base ability and occasional power.

He lost a shade of his speed but Sox scouts Joe Butler and Bill Young liked his defense and bat, and knowing they would have time to develop him because De Aza had options left, the Sox felt he was worth a waiver claim.

It looks like they were right. De Aza batted .329 after the Sox called him up from AAA Charlotte in late July last season. He hit .343 after Aug. 3, the sixth-highest average in the AL during that stretch.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Daryl Van Schouwen published on April 24, 2012 1:53 PM.

"Thoughts in Philip Humber's Mind During His Perfect Game" was the previous entry in this blog.

Ventura lets White Sox know who's boss is the next entry in this blog.

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