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Sox thump Twins, but Keppinger looking for answers

Updated: June 18, 2013 7:39AM

MINNEAPOLIS — Jeff Keppinger is about to become a bench player or, at best, a rotation guy in the White Sox’ infield. That isn’t what he had in mind when general manager Rick Hahn signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract after he batted .325 last season for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since spring training, when Keppinger was rapping out two hits a day and making it look easy, the wheels have fallen off. Dropped to eighth in the lineup, he broke an 0-for-16 streak with an infield single and a two-run, lead-padding double in the Sox’ 9-4 victory Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins. Keppinger is batting .185.

‘‘There’s nothing really to pinpoint,’’ he said before the game, trying to make sense of the seasonlong slump. ‘‘Maybe in some counts my pitch selection isn’t what it should be. I’m getting a lot of good pitches.’’

Keppinger is aware the most
remarkable aspect of his rut is that his on-base percentage is lower than his batting average.

‘‘I haven’t drawn a walk,’’ he said. ‘‘Pitchers aren’t scared to
really attack me right now, so they’re throwing me strikes.’’

When Gordon Beckham returns next week from his minor-league rehab assignment, the Sox will have a defensive upgrade at second base. Nobody would have guessed they’d be sprucing things up offensively, too, but that’s what will happen if Beckham hits even .200.

Left-handed-hitting Conor Gillaspie figures to get the bulk of the playing time at third base, the posi-
tion Keppinger signed on to man. Unless he gets untracked, Keppinger might be relegated to playing third against lefties.

The good news for the Sox is that Keppinger is losing cohorts among the South Side slump bunch. The Sox cranked out 14 hits, their third game in a row in double digits.

Adam Dunn homered twice, doubled off the wall and drove in five runs against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Dayan Viciedo showcased his strength with a 390-foot opposite-field homer and added a sacrifice fly. Alex Rios extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 3-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored. He reached with two outs to bring Dunn to the plate for both his homers.

Keppinger, meanwhile, is down, but he’s trying to take things in stride. As the Sox show signs of getting out of their hitting funk, perhaps Keppinger will ease his way back into his historically good ways.

‘‘That’s the game of baseball: There are ups and downs,’’ he said. ‘‘You have to keep battling through it, grind through it, and hopefully it will turn around pretty soon for me.

‘‘It doesn’t seem with me like it’s anything mechanical. I’m more of a feel guy. I’ve never been a mechanical-type guy with my batting stance and leg kick and everything.

‘‘It seems like whenever I hit a ball, I hit it at somebody. Besides that, just missing that solid contact. I just have to keep sticking with it, keep grinding.’’

The Sox, who have looked as drab as their road-gray uniforms, left for Anaheim after the game with some color in their collective face.

‘‘Pitching wins games, but when the team is hitting, the energy level will be up,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘When everybody has good at-bats, like today, you hope it carries over and this is the start of something new.’’

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