White Sox not too concerned about Jeff Keppinger’s 1-for-21 start
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 8, 2013 9:35PM
Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox
NO MIDDLE GROUND
There was an all-or-nothing theme to the first week of the season for Sox hitters:
Alex Rios .364, 3 HR, 5 RBI
Tyler Flowers .333, 2 HR, 4 R
Alexei Ramirez .333, HR, 3 R
Gordon Beckham .333
Jeff Keppinger .048
Paul Konerko .100, RBI
Dayan Viciedo .158, 2 HR
Alejandro De Aza .167, 2 R
Updated: May 10, 2013 6:25AM
After their No. 2 hitters batted a collective .221 last season, the White Sox were eager to see what signing free-agent third baseman Jeff Keppinger, a .288 career hitter and a tough guy to strike out, and putting him in that spot would do for their offense.
They’ll have to wait, although manager Robin Ventura doesn’t expect it to be for long.
‘‘You look at his track record,’’ said Ventura, who gave Keppin-
ger a day off Sunday after he had one hit in his first 21 at-bats with the Sox. ‘‘You kind of go from that.’’
Ventura said Keppinger, who was 21-for-51 (.412) during spring training, probably is trying to pull the ball a little too much. In Arizona, he slapped line-drive singles to left, center and right fields. And he made it look easy.
When the real Keppinger steps up — and maybe it will happen when the Sox open a 10-game road trip Tuesday in Washington — the Sox figure to start manufacturing runs to go with the 15 they’ve scored (out of 22) via the home run.
‘‘It’s not easy to hit right now,’’ Ventura said, cutting the slow-starting Sox hitters some slack during their frosty opening homestand. ‘‘As a player, you come in, it’s cold most of the time. Or the wind was blowing. It’s different, so maybe going out on the road will be a good change and will help on the psyche.’’
Alex Rios, who was 8-for-22 (.364) with three homers on the homestand, knows how a bad start will hurt the psyche. Two years ago, Rios struck out three times on Opening Day in Cleveland, didn’t get a hit till the fifth game and was mired below .200 through the first week of May. He finished the season at .227, by far the lowest average of his career. Last April, Rios batted .311 and went on to be the Sox’ most valuable every-day player.
‘‘It’s always a good thing [to start fast],’’ Rios said. ‘‘The main thing is it helps you feel good about yourself, lifts your confidence. You can carry that over to the next game and hopefully from game to game. It’s always good to start the season with a high confidence level.
‘‘That said, this early in the season, I don’t think anybody should worry about struggling a little bit. There are 162 games and people are making adjustments, so you shouldn’t be worried about a little struggle. You don’t want
to be thinking too much in this early stage.’’
Slumps ‘‘are never good or fun to go through,’’ Ventura said, but they are potentially treacherous in the first week of the season. They can get magnified by fans and media, and players can get trapped by the bad vibe that
results from a small sample size. Ventura certainly isn’t panicking.
‘‘With [Keppinger’s] track
record [.288 career average, .325 with the Tampa Bay Rays last season], with the way he swings the bat, you just wait for it to turn,’’ Ventura said.
If the Sox were worried about anyone having a slow start, it was catcher Tyler Flowers, who
replaced fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski and could have been subjected to fans turning on him early.
‘‘I didn’t hear any boos,’’ said Flowers, who has two homers. ‘‘I was hoping it would turn out that way. It pays to do well and keep everybody on your side.’’
Only 156 games left to keep it that way.