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Sox downplay shortstop drama before beating Red Sox 3-1

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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:43AM



White Sox manager Robin Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn said what they could to curb the speculation. Gordon Beckham is playing shortstop for backup and flexibility purposes, they said.

Beckham played short for Class  AAA Charlotte on Monday and again Tuesday while the Sox were defeating the visiting Boston Red Sox 3-1, an intriguing development considering he hadn’t played there since his college and minor-league days.

If Beckham can play short as a backup, he probably can play it full-time, and such a scenario would open a door to making former Silver Slugger Award winner Alexei Ramirez available in a trade. As gifted as Ramirez is and as spectacular as he can be in the field, make no mistake, there are those in the organization who question his baseball instincts and are losing patience with his lack of attention to detail in the field and his gun-shy pursuits of short fly balls in the outfield.

Ramirez has been his own worst critic for occasionally blowing the routine play, such as his error on a Dustin Pedroia smash in the eighth inning that went off his throwing hand, allowing a run to score.

Ramirez, 31, has big trade value because of his range, big-play ability, speed and bat. Since 2009, he leads American League shortstops in RBI and games and ranks second in hits, homers and extra-base hits. He hasn’t homered since April 3, but a .385 hot streak over nine games through Monday raised his average to .280. He singled and scored the Sox’ third run Tuesday on Alex Rios’ double in the eighth.

Ventura knew questions were coming about Beckham playing short, and while he talked about the need to have him as a backup option, he interjected ‘‘Alexei is the shortstop’’ and ‘‘[Beckham] is going to play second base’’ in the explanation.

Hahn also downplayed it.

‘‘There is nothing too intriguing to make out of this other than the rehab assignment gives us an opportunity to look at some ways to potentially increase the flexibility of the roster once Gordon returns,’’ he said.

And that’s all it might turn out to be. But that flexibility also could open a door for a trade, and Ramirez’s contract would not be a drawback on the second year of a four-year, $32.5 million deal with a club option for 2016.

Beckham continued his rehab assignment with Charlotte, the last step in his recovery from hamate bone surgery. His defense at second base — and his presence on and off the field — have been missed.

‘‘He has an honest soul, and he’s a smart kid,’’ assistant GM Buddy Bell said. ‘‘He goes over and plays short, and his personality fits in the middle for me, whether he’s at short or second. You don’t realize how much you miss a guy like that till he’s gone for a few weeks.’’

Another wrinkle in the Beckham-at-shortstop experiment is Carlos Sanchez, the organization’s top infield prospect. His best position, Bell said, is second. Should the Sox move Ramirez, Beckham could move to short alongside Sanchez.

Now that’s getting ahead of ourselves, but this much is certain: The Sox braintrust loves Beckham’s leadership.

‘‘The best feeling in a world as a manager is when you look out on the field and don’t have to worry about a particular guy,’’ Bell, a former manager, said. ‘‘That’s Gordon for me.’’

It was nice for the Sox to get a second straight win against the Red Sox. Jose Quintana took a no-hitter into the seventh, Jesse Crain bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam, and Jeff Keppinger hit his first homer, a two-run shot in the fifth.



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