As a teenager in his native Dominican Republic, shortstop Jose Rodriguez was nicknamed “Popeye.”
Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 175 pounds, he’s hardly a physical specimen. But Rodriguez does have some Popeye-like forearms, and the moniker followed him into professional baseball after signing in February 2018.
“He’s naturally a strong kid,” White Sox assistant general manager and farm director Chris Getz said.
Spending the entire 2022 season at Double-A Birmingham at the age of 21, Rodriguez hit 11 home runs, 21 doubles and six triples while batting .280/.340/.430 in 104 games.
Chicago added the righthanded hitter to the 40-man roster in November.
If he can stay healthy, Rodriguez is capable of putting up even bigger numbers. Last spring, he was slowed by a leg injury, and it took him time to get settled in.
“I think it affected him early on in the season, because he didn’t get the ample reps they usually get in spring training,” Getz said. “He was having a bit of an uphill battle.”
Stuck on two home runs through July, Rodriguez erupted in August and hit nine homers in 17 games. During an Aug. 20 at-bat, he broke his hamate bone and missed the rest of the season.
“Nice to see him dig himself out of a statistical hole like that,” Getz said. “He made adjustments in his swing, calmed his base and got much more direct to the ball. He was using the whole field and obviously picked his spots where he put his swing together and ran into some home runs.”
Getz said Rodriguez will “undoubtedly” be ready to go when spring training opens, and he’ll be back playing second base and shortstop.
Rodriguez started catching Chicago’s attention in 2021, when he hit a combined .301/.338/.469 with 14 home runs for Low-A Kannapolis, High-A Winston-Salem and Birmingham.
He can also run, and had 70 stolen bases over the last two seasons.
“He loves to play,” Getz said. “He’s got such fire in him.”
— The White Sox acquired righthander Gregory Santos in a trade with the Giants. The reliever spent most of 2022 with Triple-A Sacramento and pitched in two games with San Francisco.
— Chicago selected relief pitcher Nick Avila from the Giants in the major league Rule 5 draft. In a combined 47 games with High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond in 2022, Avila recorded a 1.14 ERA with 16 saves.