Daniel Palka is perfectly suited to be a designated hitter.
With a thunderous left-handed bat, Palka came from out of nowhere last season and had 27 home runs. That was the third-highest total for a rookie in White Sox history, and Palka also had 67 RBIs, which ranked third among American League rookies.
Palka tied for the major league lead with six homers in the ninth inning, so he also checked the clutch box.
Defensively, Palka was a liability as a corner outfielder, especially in right.
That leaves DH as the obvious option, but Palka is going to have to try to improve his defensive play to stay in the lineup because of the presence of Jose Abreu and newcomer Yonder Alonso. The Sox likely will try to keep Abreu and Alonso in the batting order most of the time.
Abreu has been the Sox’s regular first baseman the past five seasons, but he will share the spot with Alonso this year.
When Abreu is playing first, Alonso is the likely DH. When Alonso is playing first, Abreu is the likely DH.
“We’re countrymen,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “We’re from Cuba; we share that heritage. I’ve known him a long time, and we’re on the same page, just here trying to help this team in whatever capacity they ask of us.”
In nine seasons (Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians), Alonso has played 879 games, and 847 of them have been at first base. He only has been designated hitter in seven games (three starts).
“If [Abreu] had his preference, he’d play 162 games per year, all of them at first base,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Ultimately, as he’s gotten older and he’s seen the 7½-month or longer grind as part of being a big-leaguer, he knows there’s benefit to being off his feet and pacing himself so he can be strong and continue to be the powerful offensive force that he is at the big-league level.”
Palka might be the Sox’s starter in right or left field when the season starts in two weeks at Kansas City, and he also figures to be a factor off the bench.
Leury Garcia is manager Rick Renteria’s most versatile player who’s not a regular starter. Last year with the White Sox, Garcia played 40 games in left field, 26 in center and 16 in right. He also played seven games at second base, five at shortstop and one at third base.