(670 The Score) Five games into his rookie season, White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal suffered a separated left shoulder while sliding into third base. He was attempting to make an aggressive play in going from first base to third, the kind he hopes will define him as a player. He instead ended up on the injured list.
Madrigal returned to the White Sox fewer than four weeks later and finished his rookie campaign hitting .340, but he felt he wasn't completely himself. That was because Madrigal dealt with lingering pain in his left shoulder that affected his performance.
So Madrigal underwent offseason surgery to repair his left shoulder and is now nearing 100% health again as the White Sox have opened spring training. He's already thinking about what the lack of limitations will allow him to accomplish in his second MLB season.
"I feel like I can do a lot more to help this team," said Madrigal, who also dealt with a thumb ailment for a month in 2020. "Whether that's on the basepaths, in the batter's box, the defensive side, I feel like I didn't even showcase the kind of player I truly am. So, yeah, I'm excited to really go out there.
"Excited to play my game and have no worries about injuries or anything like that."
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 MLB amateur draft, Madrigal joined the White Sox with highly touted hitting tools. He batted .361 over three seasons at Oregon State, then .309 over two seasons in the White Sox farm system.
Madrigal quickly proved he could also hit in the big leagues, posting a .340 batting average and .745 OPS in 29 games in 2020 despite his front shoulder in the batter's box ailing and eventually requiring surgery.
New White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Madrigal reminds him of former Cardinals infielder David Eckstein, another undersized infielder with gifted hitting tools. La Russa referred to Madrigal as a winning player.
"Nick's the kind of guy that you can trust in any situation," La Russa said.
"He's an artist."
Madrigal is projected to be the everyday second baseman for the White Sox in 2021, a role he took ownership of after being promoted last season. His profile at the plate could work well as a leadoff hitter, but La Russa understandably plans for star shortstop Tim Anderson to fill that role.
As a result, Madrigal will bat near the bottom of the White Sox lineup, where he'll still attempt to be a catalyst for the top of the order. No matter the role, Madrigal hopes to be a key part of White Sox wins this season.
"I'm excited to finally be healthy and go out there and play my game," Madrigal said.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.