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Dayan Viciedo must stop chasing pitches to take next step

Updated: April 12, 2014 6:23AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dayan Viciedo turned 25 Monday. With more than 1,000 big-league at-bats, he’s neither too young nor too inexperienced to leave the White Sox wondering what more he has to offer.

Or is he? That’s a question the Sox are likely to be contemplating as they consider trade offers for the power-hitting left fielder. After a promising 2012 season in which he hit 25 home runs, Viciedo took a step back in 2013 — needing a strong second half when the Sox were out of the division race to salvage a .265 season with 14 homers and 56 RBI in 124 games.

Of course, the entire team took a step back offensively last year. It remains to be seen if Viciedo was just caught up in a slump environment or leading that charge. That’s why general manager Rick Hahn gets paid the big bucks.

For the record, Viciedo doesn’t want to leave and still thinks he has a lot more in him at a critical age when many promising players either have it or they don’t.

‘‘Yes. Absolutely. This is where I want to be,’’ he said through an interpreter when asked if he wanted to stay with the Sox. ‘‘I feel appreciative that the White Sox continue to give me the opportunity to succeed.

‘‘I feel comfortable. I feel I’m among family. I feel I can get better, and they’ve given me the confidence to keep working at it.’’

As an established big-league hitter, Viciedo still is one step away from the level that will keep him in the lineup every day. It’s more like a giant leap.

‘‘Pitch selection,’’ manager Robin Ventura said when asked what Viciedo needs to do to take that step. ‘‘He has talent. We know he can hit and everything else. But it’s about making decisions at the plate and zeroing in on the strike zone and not chasing balls.

‘‘[Pitchers] are making him chase, and anytime you chase, they’re going to continue to let you chase. If he can shore up the strike zone, he becomes a better hitter. He can make hard contact.’’

As difficult as it is to make the kind of ‘‘hard contact’’ Viciedo makes, pitch selection is even harder. The only thing more difficult than teaching pitch selection is learning it.

‘‘I think experience does that,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘Eventually, you’re either going to get it or not. Experience teaches you that — studying and learning what pitchers are trying to do to you, how they do it and why they do it.

‘‘Some people get it, and some don’t. But he’s smart enough to get it. He’s young, and that’s part of growing and learning. Not everybody gets it their first year or two. He’s better now than he was two years ago as far as learning the strike zone.’’

The challenge for Viciedo could be getting enough opportunities to take the next step. Viciedo figures to platoon with left-handed-hitting Alejandro De Aza in left, which might not give him the at-bats he needs to re-establish himself and reach that next level. A trade might give him a full-time job.

That might be tempting for others. But Viciedo said his only concern is the Sox.

‘‘I don’t think about other opportunities,’’ he said. ‘‘Baseball is baseball. My opportunity and what I have to do is right here, right now — getting better and helping this team. Whatever happens in the future happens.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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