So much for a hot start.
On Friday, the White Sox demoted struggling rookie Yermin Mercedes to Triple-A Charlotte. After hitting .415 in a historic April, Mercedes hit just .221 in May and .159 in June, losing his spot as the team’s primary designated hitter.
Mercedes took the league by storm in April, becoming the first player since at least 1900 to begin a season with eight straight hits and capturing American League Rookie of the Month honors. Since then, Mercedes has seen his batting average dip to .271, slashing just .196/.264/.272 over the past two months.
The 28-year-old seemed to fall out of favor with White Sox manager Tony La Russa after a May 19 incident in Minnesota. In the ninth inning of Chicago’s victory, Mercedes stepped in to bat with position player Willians Astudillo on the mound. On a 3-0 count, Mercedes swung at a 47 mph pitch and launched it 429 feet to center field for a home run.
Mercedes’ decision to swing away irked La Russa, who publicly criticized his player for breaking baseball’s “unwritten rules.”
“Big mistake,” La Russa said after the game. “The fact that he’s a rookie, and excited, helps explain why he just was clueless. But now he’s got a clue.
“I was upset because that’s not a time to swing 3-0. I knew the Twins knew I was upset. … He missed a 3-0 take sign. With that kind of lead, that’s just sportsmanship and respect for your opponent.”
Since then, Mercedes has hit just .150.
“I’m going to play like that, I’m Yermin,” Mercedes said at the time. “I can’t be another person because if I change it, everything is going to change. … We’re just having fun. It’s baseball.”
After spending nine seasons in the minor leagues, Mercedes made his major league debut last year, receiving one at-bat as a pinch hitter. He originally signed with the Nationals in 2011 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic.