CHICAGO – Ryan Cordell called it “the worst pain I’d ever been in.”
On April 16, only weeks after learning he didn’t make the White Sox’s big-league roster out of spring training, Cordell slammed into the center field wall at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Playing center field for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights that day, Cordell remembers catching the ball, bracing for impact and hitting the wall at an odd angle.
“As soon as I hit the wall, I knew something wasn’t right,” Cordell said. “I had never felt something like that.”
X-rays revealed a broken collarbone. A few weeks later, his shoulder still wasn’t feeling right, and an MRI revealed he also had broken his shoulder blade, too.
“It was just frustration,” Cordell said. “I had an injury last year (fractured thoracic spine), and coming into this year, really my No. 1 thing was just to play a full season and be healthy. Definitely frustration, but you kind of get over it quick and just get to work and did everything I could to get as healthy as possible.”
Cordell did not return to action until mid-July. It was disappointing for the 26-year-old outfielder who had been battling Adam Engel for the starting center field spot during spring training. Cordell worked his way back and earned a September call-up with the Sox.
On Sept. 3, the California native made his MLB debut as a pinch runner in the ninth inning against Detroit. Within seconds, Matt Davidson clobbered a walk-off home run to give the Sox a victory.
“The blink of an eye and it was over,” Cordell said. “Just getting out there, getting on the field, having a crazy amount of nerves, and then within about 30 seconds Matty hits the home run. I don’t think many people can say they get to experience a walk-off home run in their debut within about 30 seconds of being on the field.”
A day later, Cordell earned a start in right field and then another start in center field Sept. 5. Sox manager Rick Renteria made it clear the club called up Cordell to give him looks in center.
“He’ll get a few starts [in center],” Renteria said. “[Engel’s] been doing a great job. [Engel] did not want to sit. He’s been doing well. … We brought [Cordell] up to get some games in center field. We knew that he could spread out to play the corners.
“I think that when you have two speed guys out there with Cordell and [Engel] on the same field, that’s more of these guys getting to know each other more and knowing the ranges that they have. Certainly having that kind of range with both of them out there is pretty impressive.”
Cordell has appeared in seven big-league games and still is looking for his first hit after 13 plate appearances. He has one RBI on a sacrifice fly.
The Sox acquired Cordell from the Milwaukee Brewers in July 2017 in exchange for relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak. With September serving as a tryout period for many of the Sox call-ups, Cordell is hoping he can show what he’s capable of.
“That month when I came back [to Triple-A], I had a lot of focus,” Cordell said. “Take it one day at a time and not give away at bats. That’s really going to be my focus, just make the most of every opportunity I get.”