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White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo seems primed for breakout year

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Updated: March 28, 2013 4:12PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Spring training came to a close — finally, most players are saying — after an extended stay because of the World Baseball Classic. The White Sox packed their bags for Chicago, hurried through one last Cactus League game Wednesday afternoon against the Indians and jumped on the team plane for home.

Dayan Viciedo was in no rush.

“It’s been good,’’ Viciedo said of the long camp. “It has given me a chance to get ready. I’m ready to go.’’

The Cuban bat-speed generator has worked on a leg lift this spring, a suggestion from coach Jeff Manto to help Viciedo stay back and get a better look at offspeed pitches. Viciedo struck out 120 times last season.

“He got into a mode of swinging at no matter what,’’ Ventura said. “The leg kick gives you a little more balance, pushing you back and getting recognition.’’

Sometimes Viciedo used it, sometimes he didn’t and other times it came and went this spring. After hitting .279 with three home runs, five doubles and a team-high 14 RBI (with 13 strikeouts) this spring, Viciedo is sticking to the program.

“I’m definitely going to continue to try it,’’ Viciedo said, “but I’m also going to continue doing things that have helped me be successful. It’s a mix of both. But I’ll definitely continue doing it until I feel comfortable with it.’’

Viciedo, 24, batted .255 with 25 homers and 78 RBI last season and seems primed to go beyond those numbers this season after one full season against major-league pitching. He fits the mold of a 90-to-100-RBI type and projects to hit for a higher average, but he isn’t going to put those expectations on himself. Not publicly, anyway.

“I don’t want to project numbers or say, ‘I want to hit more home runs,’ or anything like that,’’ Viciedo said. “I’m working hard to have a good season.’’

An average defensive outfielder, Viciedo came up with the Sox as a corner infielder and said he’s very comfortable in left. His range is OK for a left fielder, but he made only two errors last season, and his 13 assists were fifth-best among American League outfielders.

There are scouts who say Viciedo could’ve been a long-term answer for the Sox at third base, but the Sox don’t see it that way. Viciedo’s future could be at first base when Paul Konerko is no longer here. That could be next season.

“I don’t think third,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “I think he certainly has the ability to play first if we needed that at some point down the road. Given that we have some outfield depth coming [through the farm system], that could be an option.’’

Hahn is bent on building a team that’s strong in pitching and defense.

“I mean, I don’t want to say he was that bad at third,’’ Hahn said. “You look at the two teams in the World Series, and they had primarily offensive third basemen [Pablo Sandoval with the Giants and Miguel Cabrera with the Tigers] over there. It may change, but more often than not, we’re going to emphasize pitching and defense in our ballpark. Putting him over at third base probably compromises that a little bit, the juice not being worth the squeeze.’’

The Sox are high enough on Viciedo’s offensive potential that they steered away from pursuing a left-handed bat such as left fielder Jason Kubel during the offseason, settling instead on corner infielder Conor Gillaspie and relying on switch-hitting catcher Hector Gimenez and fourth outfielder Dewayne Wise for left-handed contributions in a right-hand-heavy lineup.

“We want to give guys like Viciedo a chance to develop and fulfill his potential,’’ Hahn said. “If we had gone out and big-footed him with a big left-handed bat and turned him into a platoon player, we are stunting a 24-year-old’s development who we feel has a very high ceiling.

“A big part of us going forward is these younger guys taking that next step.’’


FOR THE RECORD: Needing a victory in their last game to finish the spring at .500, the White Sox (13-13-3) pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth when Steve Tolleson walked with the bases loaded.

FINISHING STRONG: Utility infielder Angel Sanchez, who went in to play shortstop after Alexei Ramirez was hit with a pitch on the right shoulder, had two hits, including his second homer in two days. Sanchez was 5-for-8 with five runs scored in the last two games. Gordon Beckham broke a scoreless tie by driving in Sanchez with a single, and Alejandro De Aza followed with a bunt single to score Dewayne Wise against Indians starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. Beckham finished the spring with a .299 average and 11 RBI. De Aza hit .300.

CRAIN’S BUSINESS: Jesse Crain, testing his right adductor, allowed two runs and three hits and struck out one in one inning. The pitchers vying for Crain’s spot on the roster if he’s not ready — Brian Omogrosso (one scoreless inning) and Ramon Troncoso (two runs in his second straight rough outing) — were good and bad. Matt Thornton pitched a scoreless inning, and Jeff Gray threw two scoreless innings. Jose Quintana, Addison Reed and Matt Lindstrom pitched in a minor-league game, Reed and Lindstrom on consecutive days for the first time.

CLOSING TIME: Reed did not pitch in a save situation this spring. “He’ll have enough adrenaline when it’s time,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.

ON DECK: The Sox are off Thursday. They’ll play exhibition games in Milwaukee on Friday (7:05) and Saturday (1:05).

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