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Vaughn ready for challenge after Day 1 in left field originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It seems like a lot.
Andrew Vaughn might not be feeling the pressure. The White Sox might not even be considering it pressure.
But the truth remains that Vaughn — the top ranked prospect in the organization whose 55 games of professional experience have been limited to A-ball and below — will be getting his first taste of the major leagues while playing a brand new position in a season his team starts with championship-level expectations.
Again, it seems like a lot.
But the calm, cool and collected Vaughn hadn't shed any of those characteristics during his postgame media session Friday, in the wake of his first game as a left fielder since he played for Team USA as a teenager.
"You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable," he said. "I haven’t played too much outfield in my whole life, so just go out there and learn the ropes and just do my best and taking it one day at a time."
That's how certain members of White Sox brass are taking things, too. Chris Getz, the team's player-development head and assistant to the general manager, laid out that approach Friday, not yet ready to crown Vaughn the official replacement for Eloy Jiménez in left field. Meanwhile, manager Tony La Russa was far more confident, saying he was likely to be comfortable starting Vaughn in left on Opening Day, which is Thursday, if Vaughn was able to handle the position as well as the skipper expects him to in the final days of spring training.
For Vaughn, it's just another challenge he's embracing as he heads into his rookie season.
First, there was the challenge of facing major league pitching on a daily basis as the team's everyday designated hitter without the benefit of playing at the Double-A or Triple-A levels. Vaughn's done well to show he'll be able to do that with a productive spring. But now, there's something new: trying to figure out a new position to help bail the White Sox out following the injury that knocked Jiménez out for months.
"I think every challenge excites me," Vaughn said, "because it’s competition, you versus what you are doing, and you want to be the best at it and learn the most you can and just become the best version of yourself in that position."
Whether Vaughn will find success in the outfield or not remains to be seen. But he seems to have an answer for everything, that calm, focused approach shining through. It's what gives the White Sox confidence he'll be able to handle things, and it sure seems it will be a big asset for him.
The best asset, though, is likely the guy to his left.
Luis Robert is a Gold Glove center fielder, and he sparked plenty of laughter last season when he showed off his incredible range, routinely stealing fly balls away from his teammates in left and right field. Well, that's gone from a funny joke — Jiménez setting White Sox Twitter on fire with his comedic stare down of Robert — to a potential necessity. Robert's range could make life a lot easier for Vaughn, and that's the way Vaughn's approaching things.
"I told him, 'Don’t run me over,'" Vaughn said. "He’s a giant human being. I told him, 'If you say you got it, you got it. I’m going to give it to you. If it’s (to) my right, I’m going to get it. If it’s three steps or more to my left, I think you got it. Just be loud and let me know.' He’s awesome about it."
Perhaps it ends up that Vaughn is the White Sox left fielder for the bulk of the 2021 season. But it also doesn't have to be that way. La Russa might opt for a more varied approach, utilizing numerous positions and shuffling guys like Vaughn, Adam Engel, Leury García, Billy Hamilton, Zack Collins, Yasmani Grandal and José Abreu around.
But La Russa is also the one who voiced the possibility that Vaughn could be his Opening Day left fielder.
Vaughn's response was unsurprising. Bring it on.
"If the opportunity comes, I think I would be able to do it," he said. "Just keep it simple, catch the ones in the air, throw to the right base, and that’s the most important thing."
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