Zach Remillard taking advantage of opportunities with White Sox

Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox
Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Zach Remillard just might be the Chicago White Sox's answer to its seemingly never-ending second base problem.

Less than a month ago, the 29-year-old Remillard was a relatively unknown struggling infielder with the Charlotte Knights in Triple-A. He was hitting just .236 in his seventh season of professional baseball and far down the list of answers to the White Sox's numerous problems this year.

That all changed on June 17.

Remillard, called up from Charlotte two days earlier to help replace injured third baseman, Yoan Moncada, made his major league debut on June 17 in the fourth inning in Seattle because of an injury to shortstop Tim Anderson.

What happened after that made White Sox history.

Zach Remillard has been good with the White Sox from the start.

Remillard coaxed a two-out walk from Seattle Mariners pitcher Logan Gilbert in his first major league at-bat in the fifth inning, pushing Andrew Benintendi to second. The next hitter, Luis Robert Jr., then followed with an RBI single, scoring Benintendi and tying the game at 2-2.

Remillard then caught the Mariners by surprise in the seventh inning, bunting for a single.

In his third at-bat, Remillard singled in Elvis Andrus to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the ninth inning. Another Remillard RBI single scored Andrus again in the 11th inning as the White Sox held on for a dramatic 4-3 victory.

His heroics in the ninth and 11th innings made history. The White Sox announced after the game that Remillard became the first player in major league history with a game-tying and game-winning hits both in the ninth inning or later in his major league debut.

Remillard also became the first White Sox player since Johnny Callison in 1958 to reach base four times in his debut and just the second player in major league history (along with Ernie White of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1940) to reach base four times in his debut while coming off the bench.

The 29-year-old rookie was clearly not afraid of the moment.

Remillard, of course, has cooled off since his memorable debut. But only slightly.

His average after 15 games, 49 plate appearances, and 41 at-bats is still a robust .366. He's had three doubles and has driven in eight runs. He's walked six times and has an on-base percentage of .489 and his OPS right now sits at .897.

Remillard had another three-hit game in an 11-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on June 28. He had two hits in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers on June 20 and also against the Angeles in a 9-7 win on June 29.

This past weekend in Oakland, Remillard was brilliant, going 3-for-8 in three starts with two doubles, two RBI, a run scored, four walks, and a hit by pitch. He was on base seven times over 13 plate appearances.

The Sox owe it to themselves and to Remillard now to find out if he is indeed the full-time answer at second base. Elvis Andrus, who was signed during spring training in March, has clearly not been the answer, hitting .202 over 60 games and 198 at-bats.

Andrus, who has started 29 games at both second and short, also has an on-base percentage of just .281 and an OPS of .543. He just might be more valuable to the White Sox later this month as a trade piece than he is as the starter at second.

The White Sox really have nothing to lose at this point by handing second base over to Remillard. It's doubtful he could be less productive than the 34-year-old Andrus and he might turn out to be the most pleasant surprise of this otherwise dismal season.

Remillard, to be sure, is surprising everyone right now just by being in the major leagues. He was drafted in 2016 in the 10th round as a senior out of Coastal Carolina and has battled to keep a roster spot ever since.

In six-plus seasons in the minors, Remillard is just a .253 hitter with mediocre power (57 home runs) and ability to get on base (.326). He opted for free agency after last season, attracted little interest, and ended up settling for an invite to spring training in late January from the White Sox.

There's nothing about Remillard on the surface that suggests he might be a team's answer to anything except as a role player off the bench. But when you look a bit deeper, you see a player that has the ability to rise to the occasion and produce at the biggest moments.

The White Sox have certainly seen that side of Remillard since June 17. But Remillard has been doing it on a national stage ever since his college days at Coastal Carolina from 2013-16.

Remillard, who grew up in upstate New York near Albany, started for four seasons at Coastal Carolina. He hit .221 and .259 with just six homers and 54 RBI combined in his first two years.

But it must be noted that he severely injured his elbow in the middle of his sophomore season but elected to keep playing and finishing out the year, delaying Tommy John surgery until after the season.

Remillard defied the odds and was ready for the start of his junior year in 2015. He hit .272 for the year with six homers and 42 RBI in 59 games.

He then blossomed as a senior, hitting .341 with 19 homers and 72 RBI helping lead his Chanticleer teammates to a stunning 2016 College World Series title.

The 2016 College World Series in Omaha included such future major leaguers as Pete Alonso of the New York Mets (Florida), Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds (Florida) as well as Zack Collins of the Guardians (White Sox draft pick) (Miami).

But it was Remillard and Coastal Carolina that took home the championship. Remillard was 9-for-31 (.290) in his College World Series games in Omaha with two doubles, a triple, and three RBI. He had a double and a triple to beat Florida, 2-1, in Coastal Carolina's first game in Omaha.

His two hits and an RBI helped beat TCU to send the Chanticleers to the three-game College World Series title series against Arizona.

The White Sox are just 7-8 in the 15 games that Remillard has appeared this year and 5-6 in his 11 starts and 4-3 in his last six starts. That might not sound like much, but remember that the White Sox were just 30-41 before Remillard made his major league debut.

Remillard has played 109 innings this season, playing second, third, and right field, and has committed just one error.

Remillard certainly might prove to be more Danny Mendick, Jayson Nix, Tyler Saladino, Chris Getz, and Pablo Ozuna than he is Tadahito Iguchi and Ray Durham.

The Sox, given Remillard's thin 15-game sample size, still don't even know if he's even more of an answer at second than Leury Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez.

But the time has come to find out what exactly he can be.

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