GLENDALE, Ariz. – Dallas McPherson has been getting plenty of chances to prove himself in White Sox camp this spring, which is really all a guy can ask for after two back surgeries over the last four years.
A highly touted prospect with the Angels early in his career, the third baseman’s time in Southern California was finished after 117 big-league games over three seasons. He showed some power with 18 home runs and 45 RBI with the Angels over that stretch, but there were also the 121 strikeouts.
During that time is when back issues cropped up and a first surgery that required McPherson to miss the entire 2007 season. The Marlins gave him a chance in 2008, putting McPherson at Triple-A Albuquerque, and he showed his appreciation by hitting a minor-league leading 42 home runs with 98 RBIs.
But back issues cropped up again in the spring of 2009 forcing him to miss an entire season again and go through a second back surgery.
In the A’s organization last year, McPherson again spent a full season at Triple-A, and while hamstring issues cut his time to 84 games, he did manage to hit 22 home runs with 75 RBIs.
The White Sox are the latest to give the 30-year-old McPherson a chance and they haven’t been stingy with playing opportunities. Heading into play Saturday, McPherson’s 23 Cactus League at-bats are among the most on the team, and he is making them count with a .304 batting average.
He still isn’t projected to start the season any higher than Triple-A in the White Sox organization, but he’s getting a chance again, and has already used it to prove to himself, and his new club, that if his back holds up, there might be plenty of quality baseball left in his 6-fooot-4, 225-pound frame.
Here's McPherson's take on his spring with the White Sox.
Are you happy with the way you are playing so far in camp?
Dallas McPherson: I can’t be happier with the at-bats I’m getting and the playing time I’m getting. It’s something I’ve wanted in a spring training for a while. It’s good for me to come out and play and prove that I’m healthy, knock on wood, and get some at-bats to get ready. Any time you’re in a new organization and get in front of them and show them you can play, I think it helps in the long run.
Nobody obviously owes you anything, but what has it been like to get so many chances from this staff that hardly knows you?
DM: It’s been great. It’s great that they have confidence to run me out there to get a look at me. They need to see you and evaluate you and they can’t always do that in practice. They’re running me out there and giving me opportunities.
How tough has it been over the last four years, to miss two seasons because of injury and spending the entire year at Triple-A in 2010?
DM: It’s been tough, there’s no doubt. I have had a string of injuries with the back issues and last year with the torn hamstring. It’s definitely been tough but it is what it is. I can’t change it, I can’t go back. If there was anything I could do to prevent it I would have done it. It happens in this game and all I can do now is to prepare my body the best I can and hopefully be able to go out and play with confidence that nothing else will go wrong.
Former White Sox third baseman Joe Crede had back issues similar to yours. Do guys with a history of back injuries have a certain kinship?
DM: It was funny, playing first base [Thursday] night, [the Diamondbacks’] Russell Branyan got on. [Branyan suffered a herniated disc in 2009.] I don’t know about them, but I always know who’s having back problems in the game and follow them. I knew Joe had a problem with his. You definitely feel for other guys. For anybody who hasn’t had back trouble, they don’t really know the extent of what it affects.
Players don’t get updates on their status during spring training from the coaching staff. By getting steady playing time, is that a sign to you that they like what you’re doing so far?
DM: They haven’t told me anything and I try not to worry about it. I try not to worry about it and I try not to read into things. I feel like if they’re running me out there and they’re playing me they either like what they’re seeing or there is something they want to see. Either way it’s fine with me. I’m more than willing to run out there every day for them.
Are you feeling a lot further along and have made a lot more progress now than when you opened camp as a non-roster invitee?
DM: It’s hard to say. I don’t know what they knew about me or what they expected. I have played against them in the big leagues a little bit when I was with the Angels. I really don’t know what they expected. I can tell you from my standpoint, I think I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I headed into camp last year with Oakland. I was six-months removed from a second back surgery at that point. I feel like health wise and mobility I feel so much better, my body feels so much better. Hopefully the more I can get out there and play, the more they can see something positive from me.
On defense you have been diving for balls and at the plate you’ve shown good bat speed. Are you 100 percent now or are you still working through health issues?
DM: I think everybody in the clubhouse is probably working through some stuff, but overall health, yeah I feel like I’m where I need to be as far as Week 2 of games during spring training. Am I in midseason form? Definitely not, at the plate. I’m still trying to hone in at the plate and get some mechanics and some timing down. But that’s stuff that will take time. Sometimes it takes me longer anyhow. I’ve never really had a huge spring, but hopefully the more at-bats I get, the more I get out there playing, the healthier and stronger I can get to get ready for the season.