Healthy Tilson should boost hometown White Sox

Trade Deadline acquisition played one game in 2016 before getting injured

Healthy Tilson should boost hometown White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took Charlie Tilson exactly one at-bat to pick up his first Major League hit during his White Sox debut at Comerica Park on Aug. 2 last season.

Two innings after that single to center off of Anibal Sanchez and the requisite talk at first base with Miguel Cabrera, Tilson's rookie campaign was finished when he sustained a torn left hamstring chasing Cabrera's double in right-center.

"I was running for it and out of the blue, I felt a pop and I knew it wasn't a good one," said Tilson of the instant severity of the injury when addressing the topic at the White Sox hitters' minicamp last week. "But first and foremost, just having the opportunity; I felt so fortunate to put on a White Sox uniform, a team I grew up rooting for as a kid. It was a surreal moment.

"It happens. It's all right. I felt like I kind of took it in stride and I wanted to not feel bad for myself and pick myself up. My whole focus this offseason has just been trying to harness all that energy and focus it on getting myself right for this next season, for my next opportunity, and I think I've done a pretty good job of that so far."

Tilson, Davidson arrive at camp

Tilson, who turned 24 in December, was acquired from the Cardinals in exchange for left-handed reliever Zach Duke as Chicago's lone 2016 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal. It was a case of coming home for the Wilmette, Ill., native who always rooted for the South Siders.

In fact, the left-handed-hitting center fielder entered his formative travel baseball years as a leadoff hitter when his favorite team won the 2005 World Series.

"So I was obsessed with Scott Podsednik," said Tilson with a laugh. "He was my guy, and Juan Pierre later on. I was a huge fan of guys like Magglio [Ordonez] and Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko, even Aaron Rowand. I was a big fan of his. I was a center fielder.

"I've heard a few of those guys come by during Spring Training, and I know Aaron is in the organization. So I'm really looking forward to that opportunity to meet those guys."

One rehab goal already has been reached by Tilson in that he took part in the hitters' minicamp at Camelback Ranch without any restrictions. Continuing "to reach new gears" running serves as major benchmarks for Tilson, who rehabbed in Arizona for a couple of weeks in December and will be in Glendale through Jan. 22 after arriving at the start of the new year.

A healthy Tilson should make a major contribution to the 2017 White Sox. But he's keeping his future targets focused on simply getting healthy.

"There are still some barriers I've got to break. But at this point, I'm very happy with where my body is at," Tilson said. "I feel great. I'm definitely getting there."

"He looks good in the cage," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "He's handling the bat, hitting the ball all over the plate, something you would want someone of his position to be able to do. We are hoping that he's healthy enough to get back to where he was in terms of his running ability. All the reports are that this is a very solid looking player."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.