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Beckham might be facing make-or-break season in 2014

Updated: April 5, 2014 6:24AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. —
Almost overnight, it seems, Gordon Beckham went from being the young second baseman with the bright
future to a veteran presence in the White Sox’ clubhouse.

Accustomed to being the kid with the lofty expec-
tations, Beckham looks around and sees only three players — Paul Konerko, John Danks and Alexei Ramirez — with more tenure with the Sox than he has. When he looks on his ring finger, he sees a wedding band.

Times, they are a-changing.

‘‘There’s no newness anymore, which is kind of nice,’’ Beckham, 27, said Monday. ‘‘It’s definitely a better feeling than coming into camp in the past. There’s a calmness that I have now, having been around long enough to understand the ups and downs of it.’’

Ups and downs? Beckham could write a book. A first-round draft choice in 2008, he was named the Sporting News’ rookie of the year in 2009. In 2011 and 2012, he hit in the .230s with on-base percentages of .296. After a good start last season, he missed time and lost power because of hand surgery and a quadriceps injury. Overall, he managed improved numbers (.267 average, .322 on-base) in 103 games.

‘‘All things considered, with the injury he had early, he had a good year,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘He really did.’’

Beckham’s tinkering with his stance and swing has been the subject of much scrutiny and debate. It caused a heated exchange between then-general manager Ken Williams and then-hitting coach Greg Walker in 2011. After answering lots of questions about his stance and swing, Beckham said he’s done talking about it.

‘‘I don’t want to have that conversation,’’ he said. ‘‘My swing and everything is what it is. I don’t worry [about] what it looks like, what people see. ‘Hey, you got taller [in your stance], and you’re doing this.’ I know what I feel, and what I feel is good. I don’t really worry about what it looks like.’’

‘‘I think he knows there’s no benefit from [talking about] it,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘To be an absolute open book
every day and have to go over every swing, that can get a little bit . . . you know.

‘‘He also understands that part of that is how good he was when he first came up. Ultimately, he’s a much stronger person and player because of that [scrutiny]. He’s on a good track from last year. If he continues
doing that without an injury, he’s going to have a good, solid year that everyone will be happy with.’’

With above-average and occasionally dazzling defen-
sive skills, the Sox know Beckham is only an offensive uptick or two from
being a valuable piece of their future or a valuable trade chip. With Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien, who started Monday because Beckham rested with tightness in his right leg, the Sox are stocked with prospects at Beckham’s position. So, one way or another, this
season might shape Beckham’s future in Chicago.

‘‘Gordon is certainly young enough and has enough upside that he very well could be part of [the long-term core],’’ GM Rick Hahn said. ‘‘But we have
other options that are knocking on the door. A year from now, if all goes to plan, we should have multiple options that could force the issue, and we may well have some decisions to make during the season or after the season. But we certainly haven’t ruled out Gordon being part of that going forward.’’

Understanding all that, Beckham is going about his preparation for 2014 without losing sleep.

‘‘I don’t worry about stuff I can’t control,’’ he said. ‘‘I understand who I am a lot better.

‘‘I’m in a good spot mentally and physically. It’s a matter of getting on the field and making it happen. The swing feels real good, and I’m seeing the ball real-
ly well. Now it’s a matter of playing and doing my job. I feel like last year was a good steppingstone toward this year.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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