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White Sox think leg kick might help Dayan Viciedo at the plate

White Sox hitter Dayan Viciedo (R) gets high five from A. J. Pierzynski after slugging two-run homer third inning as

White Sox hitter Dayan Viciedo (R) gets a high five from A. J. Pierzynski after slugging a two-run homer in the third inning as the Chicago Cubs take on the Chicago White Sox Saturday May 19, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:28AM



White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto wants outfielder Dayan Viciedo to incorporate a little leg kick into his swing.

A slight lift of the front foot as the pitch is approaching will help Viciedo’s timing, Manto said, but here’s the kicker: When Viciedo, 23, figures out how pitchers are attacking him, his production should go beyond the .255 average, 25 home runs and 78 RBI he put up in 2012, his first full season in the majors.

While the Sox expect catcher
Tyler Flowers to pick up some — but not all — of departed A.J. Pierzynski’s offense, they also anticipate Viciedo and second baseman Gordon Beckham adding more. Viciedo’s bat speed is off the charts, but he has holes in his swing and flaws in his approach that need to be fixed. He struck out 120 times and drew 28 walks last season.

‘‘He’s going to get better once he gets the timing down,’’ Manto said on a conference call Thursday. ‘‘That’s what’s scary about this guy: He didn’t do a lot of things right, and he had those numbers. Once he calms himself down and understands what the pitchers are doing to him, he’s going to be a big-time impact player. I really believe that. The numbers he put up, they’re
legit. It’s a shame he got a little cold at the end of the season, but these are numbers he can sit on.’’

Manto had hoped to meet with Viciedo this winter in Florida, but those plans didn’t pan out. So he’ll get going on the kick when spring training begins next week in ­Glendale, Ariz.

‘‘That’s not going to be a big deal,’’ Manto said.

Manto said Flowers worked this winter on preventing his back side from collapsing, a swing adjustment that should bear fruit as he approaches his first season as the every-day catcher. Manto’s biggest concern is that Flowers doesn’t get weighed down by expectations and any pressure that comes with them.

‘‘He’s going to try to win over the fans and make an immediate
impact,’’ Manto said. ‘‘The challenge is keeping him focused on what he can do. He has to ­realize he’s a young player and he will make mistakes. We just have to move quickly from them.

‘‘[His offense] may be better [than Pierzynski’s]; it may be as good. We don’t know. We’re going to let it play out. The No. 1 thing is for him handling the pitching staff.’’

Manto worked with Flowers, Beckham and third baseman Brent Morel at U.S. Cellular Field before SoxFest last month. Morel, who is returning from back problems, ­displayed his normal bat speed and looked healthy.

‘‘You can see there is something different in his eye, which is nice to see,’’ Manto said. ‘‘He’s coming to compete for a job, and he’s not keeping it a secret, either.’’

Morel probably would have to beat out Jeff Keppinger, who was signed during the offseason to shore up third base. Manto worked with Keppinger when he was the hitting coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

‘‘He’s probably the most versatile hitter we have,’’ Manto said. ‘‘He can do a lot of things — move the ball, pull the ball, drive the ball, bunt — and you can’t strike him out. He will add a different dimension to our lineup in a very positive way.’’



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