PHOENIX – Nicky Delmonico broke into the majors last year, got off to a great start and then was hampered by injuries.
No big deal for the affable Delmonico, who knows a few bumps and bruises hardly qualify as any sort of hardship.
Delmonico, the son of a longtime college baseball coach, took a circuitous route to the big leagues, spending time in three minor league systems and overcoming an addiction to Adderall before earning a spot with the White Sox with an impressive debut last summer.
The 25-year-old Delmonico was selected by Baltimore in the sixth round of the 2011 draft and traded to Milwaukee for Francisco Rodriguez in July 2013. One year later, he was playing for Single-A Brevard County in the Brewers’ organization when he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for an amphetamine.
He checked into a rehab facility in 2015, beginning the difficult road back to the life he always imagined for himself.
“It humbled me a lot,” Delmonico said before Friday’s
7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in spring training. “I appreciate the game more. I appreciate being around my teammates. Just enjoying the game of baseball.”
The lefty-batting Delmonico, who can play in the infield and outfield, found a home with the Sox after he was cut by the Brewers. He made his major league debut in August after batting .262 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs for Triple-A Charlotte.
The Sox were on their way to another losing season, but Delmonico was a revelation. He singled in the eighth inning of his debut and kept right on going. He set a team record by reaching safely in his first
13 major league games. He was batting .307 with six homers and 12 RBIs when he went on the disabled list Aug. 26 with a sprained right wrist.
Two nights after hitting a game-ending homer against the Los Angeles Angels, Delmonico sprained his left shoulder while diving for a ball in Cleveland, ending his season with only a couple of games left on the schedule.
“It’s just part of the game. I’m going to have to learn to play through those things,” Delmonico said about his injuries late last season. “Down in my career, too, I’m going to have to learn to play with some nicks and pains. You know, just kind of get used to it.”
Delmonico said he feels really comfortable after his experience last year, and it sure looks that way so far this spring. He had two hits and two RBIs in Thursday’s 8-7 loss to Cincinnati. He went 0 for 3 against the Dodgers, but he hit a deep fly ball to right against ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw in the second.
“From the offensive side, he continues to put together some really good at-bats,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s swinging the bat well.”
He certainly had a good teacher. Delmonico’s father, Rod, was the University of Tennessee coach for 18 seasons. His two older brothers also played, with Tony spending time in the Dodgers organization and Joey playing college ball at Georgia.
Nicky’s father remains one of his best baseball advisers.
“My dad’s still a coach at heart,” he said. “Talk to him all the time after each game. But we’ve gotten pretty good to get away from the game as well. But it’s definitely in our blood. Even you know my mom’s calling and talking stuff. So it’s a huge baseball family.”
Being a coach’s son can be a tricky spot, but Delmonico said his father brings a positive approach.
“For him, when you make a mistake, it’s the best thing about learning,” he said. “When you make mistakes, you learn the most. He’s really good at teaching and coaching the game.”