Opportunity is knocking for new White Sox addition Conor Gillaspie
BY CHRIS DE LUCA email@example.com March 10, 2013 7:58PM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Conor Gillaspie arrived at Camelback Ranch on Sunday expecting to play first base for the White Sox against the Mariners in Peoria.
But shortly before boarding the bus for the 15-minute trip down the freeway, Gillaspie was told he instead would be starting at third base against the Reds in Glendale.
It has been that kind of spring training for the utility infielder who creates more buzz on a daily basis.
“It has been pretty crazy,” Gillaspie said after going 2-for-4 against the Reds, lifting his Cactus League batting average to .364 (8-for-22) and a team-best 8 RBI.
Gillaspie reported to spring training in Scottsdale, joining the world-champion San Francisco Giants. Less than two weeks into camp, he was traded to the White Sox for right-hander Jeff Soptic. Gillaspie, who played in six games for the 2012 Giants, remains in line to get a World Series ring.
It was odd timing for a deal — players usually are dealt before reporting to camp or toward the end of spring training.
Two weeks in?
“I was pretty shocked,” Gillaspie said. “I’m glad I’m here because that organization has so many good players. It’s just loaded with talent and it’s really hard to break through.
“Not that it’s not hard here because it’s hard everywhere. But especially there, there are just so many guys that are better than me that it’s just kind of hard to get in the lineup anywhere. Even in Triple-A we had such a good team. It was crazy.”
Because he bats left-handed, Gillaspie presents interesting options for manager Robin Ventura.
And Gillaspie’s arrival likely puts Brent Morel on the bubble of making the White Sox’ roster out of camp.
Gillaspie is all too familiar with that position.
“I was never probably going to start there, so I was just competing maybe for the last job on the team,” Gillaspie said of the Giants. “Kind of what I’m doing here.”
From the looks of things, Ventura sees Gillaspie as more than his 25th man.
“He’s got a pretty simple game as far as tough at-bats, he’s no-nonsense, comes to play every day,” Ventura said. “You don’t see him as a guy who needs a lot of maintenance. He does a lot of things well, too. That’s a good combination to have.”
He has been known more for his compact swing than his steady hands, but Gillaspie is versatile.
Gillaspie, 25, was the 37th overall pick in the 2008 draft, with the Giants taking him from Wichita State.
But Gillaspie knew this winter his chances of cracking the Giants’ lineup were slim. He welcomed the trade, even if the timing was odd.
“Things were moving kind of fast, but they have started to slow down a little bit in the last week,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a different atmosphere over here, which I think is better for me. It’s a little more low-key. Not that it wasn’t over there, but just the pressure to win with that organization and the amount of good players, it was kind of overwhelming for me, honestly.”
That’s a big statement for a guy who plans to be a storm chaser when his baseball career ends.
In fact, talking about chasing storms seems to get the Wichita native’s blood flowing better than talking baseball.
“Some guys are into cars, some guys are into collecting stuff, but for whatever reason, growing up around it, I’ve just always been fascinated by storm chasing,” said Gillaspie, who has done some “amateur” storm chasing. “It’s just something I was planning on pursuing as my future down the road if baseball wasn’t in the plan.
“It’s just an adrenaline rush. You go through the monotony of baseball, some days it can be exhausting. Every time I do that, I get so excited and I get an adrenaline rush that I just don’t feel in a lot of other things in life.”
For now, that dream will wait while he chases his other dream.
“I’m just thankful to be in an organization where I’m getting chances to play,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. It means a lot to have somebody that wants you there and wants you to play. It makes you feel a lot better about yourself.”