After training with group headed by Yelich, Rutherford looks to build on 2018 Sox season

 
 
Updated 2/17/2019 5:41 PM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If you truly are only as good as the company you keep, Blake Rutherford is going to be a great one for the White Sox.

A promising outfield prospect acquired from the Yankees in the July 17, 2017, trade that sent relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier to New York, Rutherford has done offseason training with reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich for the past three years.

"He's almost like a bigger brother to me, just looking out for me, talking and hanging out," Rutherford said. "It's been a lot of fun continuing to watch him have great years and continuing to learn from him and see the changes he makes in his game, too."

This offseason, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Trevor Plouffe and former Sox infielder Tyler Saladino joined Yelich and Rutherford for workouts in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

"We were able to hit together and throw together," Rutherford said. "Not only Christian, but watching all those guys go about their work on a day-to-day basis and see how they prepare and talk to them about hitting and their mindset, I was excited for the opportunity."

Rutherford was the Yankees' first-round draft pick (No. 18 overall) in 2016, and he is ticketed for another full season in the minor leagues this year.

The 21-year-old outfielder will try to build off a solid 2018 season, where he slashed .293/.345/.436 with 25 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs and 78 RBI in 115 games with high Class A Winston-Salem.

"I'm happy," Rutherford said. "I feel like my at-bats were a lot more consistent last season. My game was a lot better overall offensively, defensively, baserunning. I was a lot happier with being able to make changes a little bit faster than years before."

All in:

There was some light batting practice Sunday morning at chilly Camelback Ranch, but the pace picks up Monday when the White Sox have their first full-squad workout of spring training.

"We'll have our conversation, welcoming into camp," manager Rick Renteria said. "Anticipating the opening of spring training, I think we're going to continue to harp on high expectations. That's always been the case the previous two years. Even if you don't match those expectations, based on victories, the record, you still have to continue to talk about those things and we'll continue to do that.

"I think these guys understand where we're at. I think they know this is a big year for us, an important year for us. We've got guys that have been in the big leagues now for a couple years, and we're hoping and anticipating they'll continue to raise their game a little bit and the overall picture will continue to improve."

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