Tilson takes part in Instructional League games

Outfielder missed all of 2017 season with foot, ankle injuries

Tilson takes part in Instructional League games

MESA, Ariz. -- Charlie Tilson took part in a White Sox game on Tuesday afternoon.

Yes, the game represented an Instructional League contest against the A's at Fitch Park, played before a small crowd of teammates, scouts and maybe a few players' family members. But for the outfielder who did not play at all during the 2017 season, the type of competition didn't matter.

"Regardless, it's baseball," said a smiling Tilson at Camelback Ranch, prior to making the 40-minute bus ride to Mesa. "You spend so much time in the cage and it's tough to really simulate in-game competition.

"You know, laying off a couple of pitches, fouling a couple of pitches off, getting down two strikes, those type of things bring back familiar feelings you haven't been in touch with for a while. That was the biggest most exciting takeaway for me: How much you miss it. How much fun it is to be out there competing. It was great."

Tilson, the club's No. 19 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, actually returned for the White Sox on Monday at Goodyear. He played 5 1/3 innings in center and had three at-bats, much like he did on Tuesday. His next start should be on Thursday morning.

This comeback becomes a potential final test for Tilson. The 24-year-old suffered a torn left hamstring chasing a fly ball in Detroit on Aug. 2, 2016 in his one and only game with the White Sox, leading to season-ending surgery. That unfortunate injury was followed by a stress reaction suffered in his right foot at the outset of Spring Training and then a stress fracture suffered in the navicular bone of his right ankle leading to Tilson wearing a protective boot.

Tilson on recent setback

Surgery was a possibility to fix the navicular problem as recently as July, and remains possible. Hence, the test portion of this Instructional League participation.

"That's kind of part of my assignment out here," Tilson said. "There's still a little bit of healing potentially to go, but completely not symptomatic so being out here, being able to test it out and see how it reacts, so far I'm feeling good about it.

"I would describe it as a test. There's always [surgical] possibilities but I'm just trying to take it a day at a time and keep doing the things that are working for me. And just stay ready to play and I'm pretty confident that I'll make it through this just fine."

After this frustrating past season, Tilson admitted a need to listen to his body a little more even at such a young age. He worked with a nutritionist during the extended absence and dropped weight from an already fit 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame.

"He feels really good where he is at right now," White Sox Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger said. "Obviously after all those injuries and stuff, your mind plays a big part. Can I pull this off again? Can I do it? But he's in a good spot in his own brain."

The ultimate plan for Tilson is competing for a White Sox roster spot at the start of Spring Training. As of Tuesday, he sees no real roadblock halting that plan.

"I've got more to gain," Tilson said. "I should be all the more ready with a bigger appreciation for the opportunity."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com 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.