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White Sox’ Gavin Sheets enjoying benefits of playing every day

ST. LOUIS — Playing every day matters. Just ask Gavin Sheets, whose 2024 pace has him on track for a career-high 525 plate appearances.

After securing a job in spring training that wasn’t guaranteed and after getting regular at-bats as the designated hitter when Eloy Jimenez got hurt, Sheets forced himself into the every-day lineup, even in right field, where he won’t come close to sniffing a Gold Glove.

Providing steady production on a team that’s last in the majors in runs will do that.

“You definitely keep a rhythm,” Sheets told the Sun-Times of the advantage of playing every day before the White Sox’ 5-1 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday. “But the biggest thing for me is not putting too much pressure on myself with every at-bat. You know your at-bats are coming. It’s not like, ‘Hey, if I don’t get a hit today, I might not play this week.’ You take each at-bat as they come; you’re not as results-oriented. You’re more process-oriented.”

Sheets is batting .270/.362/.460 with three homers and an .822 OPS that leads all Sox hitters by plenty — Jimenez is next at .688. Manager Pedro Grifol started the left-handed hitter against Cardinals left-handed opener Matthew Liberatore.

Such at-bats are “huge,” said Sheets, who grounded out twice against Liberatore — once at a 101.8 exit velocity — and doubled against left-hander John King in the eighth inning.

Against right-hander Giovanny Gallegos, Sheets doubled in a four-run seventh. The second double was Sheets’ 10th of the season but his first hit against a lefty in 14 at-bats this season. He was .112/.165/.135 in his career against left-handers going in.

“Really, the first time in my career [against] lefties and righties, so it’s been great,” he said. “Embraced it, enjoying the every-day soreness and all those aspects, making the most of it.”

Crochet sharp

Left-hander Garrett Crochet pitched six innings of one-run ball, striking out six, walking none and allowing three hits, including Willson Contreras’ homer and Lars Nootbaar’s smash single that caromed off his left shin.

“Just wrapped it up between innings and was able to lock it in and get us through six,” Crochet said.

“It felt pretty brutal. In my mind when I was doing the warmup pitches I was like, ‘I’m just buying time for someone in the bullpen to get hot.’ But I was able to find my footing there after a couple of throws, felt like I had some stability. Just kind of off the bone, so it was just that immediate reaction that really felt painful.”

Crochet threw 88 pitches, 60 for strikes.

Dad-gum adductors

Infielder Nicky Lopez, who looked a bit wobbly running out a ground ball Saturday, has some adductor soreness, Grifol said, and was given the day off.

“But Nicky is a gamer,” Grifol said. “I’ve seen him play with all types of stuff. He never wants out of the lineup; he plays with pain, through pain. It was my choice, not his, to make sure we calm that down a little bit and get him back to 100%.”

Yoan Moncada is on the injured list with an adductor strain, and Jimenez spent time on the injured list last month with an adductor strain, as well.

Luis Robert Jr. (hip) is expected to begin his rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte in about a week.

Mike Clevinger close to return

The Sox are officially TBA for their series opener at the Rays Monday, but the plan is for Mike Clevinger to make his season debut.

Dominic Leone “feeling good”

Reliever Dominic Leone, who left Saturday’s game with low back stiffness after facing one batter, was well enough to throw a medicine ball and baseball Sunday.

“He came in feeling good today,” Grifol said.

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