Comerica Park a special place for White Sox’ Tanner Banks

DETROIT — Every player has that special place.

For White Sox reliever Tanner Banks, it’s Comerica Park.

Banks made his major-league debut there at 30 in 2022 against the Tigers.

And as you would guess, he’ll never forget it.

“It will always hold a special spot,” Banks said. “For me and my family, it was their first experience, too. Anyone in here will tell you where they had their debut. It’s special. Kind of cool nostalgia. It’s where it all began, and every time you go back, you get to relive it.”

The Sox opened a three-game series at Comerica on Friday with a 2-1 loss more than two years after Banks struck out four Tigers in a 10-1 Sox victory on April 10, 2022. His career would start with seven consecutive scoreless appearances.

Days earlier, Banks, a non-roster invitee to spring training, was a surprise part of manager Tony La Russa’s Opening Day roster. He had been reassigned to minor-league camp on March 29 but came back to pitch in the last Cactus League game of the spring. Garrett Crochet being lost to Tommy John surgery opened a spot for a left-hander.

The next day, La Russa told him in the dugout that he made the team.

“He says, ‘Welcome to the major leagues,’ and shakes my hand,” said Banks, an 18th-round pick in the 2014 draft with 168 minor-league appearances and 743„ innings on his résumé. “I was like, ‘No way!’ He said, ‘Get out of here, go into the clubhouse and call your family.’ ’’

Banks said he ran across the field, feeling “shaky,” and thought, ‘‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve realized my dream — but not yet.’

“As I got up to my phone, I got emotional and called my wife. She booked flights and met us the next day in Detroit. I can visualize and picture every moment. It was so special.”

The struggling, rebuilding Sox (20-57) don’t lead the majors in much, but they’re among the leaders with seven players — Zach DeLoach, Duke Ellis, Bryan Ramos, Jonathan Cannon, Jordan Leasure, Nick Nastrini and Drew Thorpe — who made their debuts this season.

The debut is always a big event, a lifetime-achievement award of sorts.

“You can’t expect anything in this game; you have to earn everything,” said Andrew Vaughn, a No. 3 overall draft pick who was almost assured of making it but won’t forget his first game, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored as the left fielder in a 12-8 Sox victory on April 2, 2021. “Anaheim, in California [his home state], and the thing I remember was having family there to enjoy it.”

Banks had a 3.06 ERA in 35 relief appearances as a rookie and a 4.43 ERA with one save in 29 relief appearances and three starts in 2023, and he has a 4.54 ERA in 27 relief appearances and one start this season and is well on his way to a career high in games pitched.

A versatile lefty in the Sox’ struggling bullpen, Banks has a 3.21 ERA in his last 12 appearances (14 innings).

“Everyone will tell you they will give their best every time, but, for me, I want to be available,” Banks said. “To pitch whenever I’m asked, whether it’s up 10, down 10 or tie ballgame. If my value is being versatile, great; if it’s getting a lefty out, great. Wherever it is, being able to offer more than one thing is so important. It’s the same as being a utility player in the field.

“It’s been a fun ride thus far. I hope to play for as long as I can. Seeing these young guys coming up, realizing the same dream we all have, it’s different for the veterans who have done it a long time, but I feel like I can relate. I say to them, ‘Take a deep breath, slow it down and take it all in.’ ’’

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