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Dayan Viciedo’s play will affect Sox GM Ken Williams’ reputation

Right fielder Dayan Viciedo needs be productive player this seasjustify some things general manager Ken Williams has done. | Getty

Right fielder Dayan Viciedo needs to be a productive player this season to justify some of the things general manager Ken Williams has done. | Getty Images

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Updated: February 19, 2012 8:23AM

Dayan Viciedo had better be good.

Not just OK. Not just serviceable. He needs to be at least .280-average, 20-home-run good.

White Sox general manager Ken Williams’ shrinking reputation as a talent evaluator depends on it.

Williams can spin the makeup of the roster all he wants with spring training just more than a month away, but this is Williams’ team and Viciedo, 22, is his guy. No manager to point a finger at, no ‘‘you can’t spend a dollar if you only have 50 cents’’ motto to put in the face of the South Side fans.

Viciedo starting in right field is a Williams production — all $10 million of it. And as it stands right now, it comes with a red flag.

In the last two seasons, Viciedo has had chances to show what he could do. He made Williams look like a genius in July 2010, going 16-for-46 (.348) with two homers that month. All the scouting lingo associated with him — ‘‘bat speed,’’ ‘‘bad-ball hitter,’’ ‘‘ball jumps off of his bat’’ — made sense. We all could see it.

In his last 89 at-bats of 2011, though, the fears of former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen came to fruition. The American League had caught up to the free-swinging youngster.

Nowhere to hide in 2012

Guillen privately had thought that was a real possibility. In 2010, he was able to hide Viciedo against tougher matchups, keeping him away from pitchers who don’t pitch to the count or can soft-toss a hitter.

Late last season, though, there was nowhere to turn with Viciedo in the lineup almost every day. The result was a .213 batting average with no homers and 22 strikeouts in those 89 at-bats.

On Tuesday, Viciedo addressed the idea of the league catching up with him but didn’t offer any concrete evidence that it will change.

‘‘Really, it’s all going to be the preparation this year,’’ he said. ‘‘The pitchers pretty much know me, and I know the pitchers. I have a feeling we’re going to get a chance to know each other really well this year.’’

The hope for the Sox is that Viciedo’s butt doesn’t get a chance to know the bench really well this season. He is their starting right fielder until further notice. When Williams was forced to dump salary and trade Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres last month, that was all but guaranteed.

GM Survival 101

Which gets us to Williams and where he’s at in the eyes of an organization looking for a quick turnaround.

At the end of last season, several sources indicated there were growing concerns among some investors about the direction Williams was taking the Sox, even though chairman Jerry Reinsdorf ultimately sided with Williams in his feud with Guillen.

According to a team source, that hasn’t changed going into spring training. If anything, it has gotten worse, primarily because of Williams’ decision-making on talent.

Williams often paints a picture that decisions are ‘‘organizational.’’ He does that because it’s GM Survival 101. Sources, though, have said otherwise.

Then there’s the fact that even Reinsdorf has had to swat him on the nose with a newspaper at times.

It was Reinsdorf who gave Williams the money to re-sign first baseman Paul Konerko after Williams had chosen Adam Dunn over Konerko in free agency before the 2011 season. It was Reinsdorf who vetoed several attempts by Williams to fire Guillen. And it was Reinsdorf who stepped in when Williams had a heated argument with then-hitting coach Greg Walker, vetoing Williams’ attempt to fire him at the time.

Moonlighting as a baby-sitter to his GM has to be getting old for Reinsdorf.

Very little has been going right for Williams lately. Viciedo had better not add to that.

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