Future is now for White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter June 26, 2014 10:03PM
Updated: June 26, 2014 10:05PM
TORONTO — As third-base prospect Matt Davidson, 23, tries to find his way to the major leagues, Conor Gillaspie has calmed whatever worries have been caused by Davidson’s struggle to hit .200 at Class AAA Charlotte.
Gillaspie, who turns 27 in July, would like to think that the Sox have their third baseman of the future right here and right now. You know, the guy batting third on most days, the one who has a .327 average after the Sox’ 7-0 loss Thursday to the Blue Jays.
As a left-handed-hitting third baseman, Gillaspie brings another nice feature to the park every day.
“Those aren’t easy to find,’’ third-base coach Joe McEwing said.
And while his defense and arm have been just OK, Gillaspie has shown enough flashes of ability at the hot corner — take his series in Baltimore in which he made several tough stops on balls hit to either side — and he won’t fail to be better for lack of effort.
“He works his butt off,’’ McEwing said. “That’s why he is where he is.’’
If there’s a “what’s up with that?” question about Gillaspie in 2014, it’s the zero in his home-run column. He hit 13 while batting .245 as a rookie last season after the Sox acquired him in a spring-training deal for minor-league pitcher Jeff Soptic.
“I did change some things around in spring that maybe took away from driving the ball,’’ Gillaspie said. “[Trying to hit for power is] a double-edged sword because the minute you do that, you become more vulnerable to other things. I’d rather have quality plate appearances and hit grounders through holes or line drives than do what I did last year when I was vulnerable to a lot more pitches. I went through a couple of months when I was an automatic out most of the time. I didn’t like that.’’
McEwing likes the approach and expects Gillaspie’s power to return.
“His line drives are going to be homers,’’ he said. “It hasn’t happened yet. We’re not really concerned about it. He can flat-out hit, and it will come. Once somebody gets to thinking they need to hit homers, it’s not a good approach.’’
McEwing thinks Gillaspie’s ceiling with his glove hasn’t been reached, as well. The two have been working on pre-pitch setup and getting off the ball quicker.
“More of an attack mode rather than letting the ball dictate what you’re going to do,’’ McEwing said.
Scott Carroll gave up five runs in five innings in his return from the bullpen, and J.A. Happ held the Sox to four hits over 72/3 innings. The combination of no offense and bad defense — center fielder Leury Garcia and right fielder Moises Sierra threw balls through the infield — flashed back to the bad 2013 season that put the Sox in rebuild mode.
As the Sox (36-44) retreat to that place — they’ve lost seven of eight on an 11-game road trip — they know there’s time to watch Gillaspie and Davidson develop.
Not that Davidson is being written off. He’s a highly rated prospect taken 35th overall in 2009 by the Diamondbacks (Gillaspie was taken 37th in 2008 by the Giants), and he has been better of late, hitting .303 with three homers and six RBI over his last nine games.
Davidson’s calling card is hitting home runs (he has 13 this year). Gillaspie can simply hit.
“It’s tough to not want to hit home runs,’’ Gillaspie said. “Everybody does. But I went through too many rough stalls last year. I’m trying to keep those to a minimum.’’