White Sox’ Jeff Keppinger takes his slumps, bounces back
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 18, 2013 8:06PM
Updated: July 18, 2013 10:45PM
New three-year contract?
Jeff Keppinger, 33, says neither of those things contributed to his bad start with the White Sox. Bad timing, bad luck and just being bad did.
After hitting .325 with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, the versatile infielder signed a $12 million contract with the Sox, then had a great spring training despite a sore right shoulder. Then came the slump, at the worst possible time for a player on a new team with a new multiyear contract — in the first part of the season.
Swept up in the Sox’ teamwide hitting malaise, Keppinger was batting .177 on May 14 and didn’t draw his first walk till three days later.
“It seemed like the one ball I hit hard was at somebody,’’ Keppinger said. “And I really wasn’t giving myself much of a chance on the other at-bats. When you’re not going good, you need that one to fall in. It seemed like it was going that way.’’
It didn’t last forever. Over his last 44 games, Keppinger is batting .302, which raised his average to .246 at the All-Star break.
“I’m starting to get some to fall, and I feel better at the plate,’’ he said. “I’m making more solid contact, for sure.’’
The Sox are Keppinger’s seventh team in nine seasons, so he dismisses the notion he pressured himself to try to make a good impression on a new team and fan base. He might have done that early in his career, but “I’ve played long enough and had enough at-bats in the big leagues to know what I’m capable of,’’ he said.
“I’m not going to press. In spring training, I was raking. Then I hit that slump, and it happened to be at the beginning of the season. Over the last month and a half, I dug myself out of that, and if I can keep going from there, I’ll probably be right around where I am for my career.’’
Dealing with adversity could help Keppinger should he become a manager one day. He said he’s thinking about it.
“I like that aspect of the game, the thinking part,’’ he said. “I’d like to be the guy who pulls the trigger on those calls.’’
“I’d have to sit down and ask Robin [Ventura] about the ins and outs of the job. What he likes, what he doesn’t like about it. Managing a game, that interests me.’’
Ventura wasn’t surprised to hear of Keppinger’s interest.
“You see his brain working, thinking through things when something happens,’’ Ventura said. “He doesn’t always agree . . . he sits there and thinks things through.’’
NOTES: Jake Peavy is expected to come off the disabled list and make his first start Saturday against the Braves since June 4, when he pitched with a displaced rib and lasted 21/3 innings in Seattle. Peavy allowed six runs, raising his ERA from 3.62 to 4.30.
◆ The Sox signed left-handed-hitting first baseman Travis Ishikawa, 29, to a minor-league contract. Ishikawa, who will report to Class AAA Charlotte, has played for the Giants, Brewers, Orioles and Yankees. A career .260 hitter, he had his best year in 2009 with the Giants when he batted .261 with nine home runs, 10 doubles and 39 RBI in 120 games. Class AAA first baseman Lars Anderson and right-hander Jeff Gray were released.
◆ Paul Konerko started his minor-league rehab assignment Thursday night at Class AA Birmingham. Konerko (back) hopes to return when the Tigers open a four-game series Monday in Chicago.
◆ The Sox will have a 3 p.m. workout on the first day back from the break.
◆ Sox great Minnie Minoso will be honored Tuesday with the Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence by the National Council of La Raza in New Orleans.