Undaunted by injuries, Ynoa continues to pursue dream

White Sox may uncover hidden gem in reliever

Undaunted by injuries, Ynoa continues to pursue dream

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The buzz around Camelback Ranch on Tuesday centered around Jeff Samardzija's first game action with the White Sox, but Michael Ynoa's debut during the same intrasquad game did not go unnoticed.

Ynoa, 23, who was acquired from Oakland with Samardzija in the deal that sent infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, infielder Rangel Ravelo and right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt to the A's, could be the central figure when the trade is finally judged years from now.

Consider this: Samardzija is entering his final season prior to free agency and will likely test the open market after this season. Ynoa, 23, was moved to the bullpen at Class A Advanced Stockton last season. It's a role shift that could land him in the big leagues with the White Sox sometime this season and in the future.

"He's a potential long-term fit for us," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "We think he really took to the change in role to the bullpen. He's an interesting guy because he still has a starter's mix of pitches. He certainly seemed more comfortable, and he's been able to stay healthy."

At 16, Ynoa signed for what was then a record $4.25 million bonus for an international amateur free agent. But he had Tommy John surgery two years later. Ynoa injured his shoulder in 2013, and he was slowed by a right biceps injury to start the 2014 season.

He has one Minor League option remaining.

"The injuries took away some of the development time, but he has the ability, and once he is able to find that consistency in a role, he'll come quickly," Hahn said. "We haven't decided where we will start him, but it makes sense that he would be challenged at Double-A this year, and we'll see where he goes from there. He's certainly not far away once he is in Double-A."

Ynoa, who made his pro debut at 18 with Oakland's Rookie League team, has never pitched higher than Advanced A. He's pitched 161 innings in four Minor League seasons, the most coming in 2013 when he pitched 75 2/3 innings for Class A Beloit and Stockton.

"From the very beginning, I never imagined I would have all these injuries and things that happened to me. Those were out of my control," Ynoa said. "All I can do is work hard each day and stay positive, try not to get hurt. Life is that way sometimes, and I just have to move forward to be a big leaguer."

Ynoa retired all four batters he faced in Tuesday's intrasquad game.

"The truth is, I have a lot of experience. I'm not a veteran of the Major Leagues, but I am in the Minors. I signed really young and I've been through a lot," Ynoa said. "I think when I finally reach my dream, I'll be ready for it. Every year I have learned something, but the way I look at it, there is still a lot to learn. I've been a professional for seven years, but in some ways I'm starting over in a new phase."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.