CTL: Will Gordon Beckham take the next step?
GLENDALE, Ariz. --- Unlike a year ago, when the White Sox open spring camp on Tuesday morning, the focus will primarily be on the field.
Questions of whether or not manager Robin Ventura and his staff can run the program in the wake of Ozzie Guillen’s departure have been answered, done in by 85 victories in 2012 and a run of 117 days in first place.
They have been replaced by queries into the health of players, predictions on how some will perform and whether or not others can live up to the play of their predecessors.
Though last season’s questions may have served as motivation and a rallying cry for players, the team has plenty of incentive this spring after they fell three games shy of the 2012 postseason in a late season collapse.
With the emphasis once again on baseball, here are five things to watch in between now and opening day on April 1:
1. How will John Danks’ surgically repaired shoulder respond in games?
By all accounts, Danks’ rehab from an Aug. 6 surgery to his throwing shoulder has gone without any notable hiccups. The left-hander, who signed a five-year, $65-million extension, in December 2011, has been throwing off a mound since early January. If Danks can contribute in 2013 he only adds to an already strong rotation that features All-Stars Jake Peavy and Chris Sale. But the real test comes once Danks starts to ramp up the intensity of his pitches in game action. Though the team’s first game is Feb. 23, the club plans to start Danks slowly as the spring schedule includes an extra week of games to account for the World Baseball Classic.
2. Who will win the fifth spot in the rotation?
Even if Danks is 100 percent healthy there’s no guarantee he opens the season on the White Sox roster. But if Danks were to the crack the rotation out of camp the club will have competition on its hands for the final spot between Hector Santiago and Jose Quintana. Quintana, a waiver claim who had never pitched higher than Single-A before 2012, showed the Sox he has the ability to win games at the major league level. But the team also likes what it has seen from Santiago, who performed well in a variety of roles last season and struck out 26 batters in 19 innings as a starter.
3. Will Jeff Keppinger’s rehab from a broken leg hinder his spring?
The club was high enough on Keppinger to sign him to a three-year deal this offseason even though he had a broken leg at the time. Thus far, the infielder’s rehab has gone as planned, according to Keppinger and club officials. The veteran should also benefit from an extra week of action in which to prepare.
4. Can Gordon Beckham carry over the confidence gained late last season?
The second baseman and first-round pick said he believes the adjustments he and hitting coaches Jeff Manto and Harold Baines made toward the end of the 2012 season will carry over in 2013. Beckham’s .792 OPS after Sept. 1 was his highest for any month all season and he was one of the Sox most consistent performers down the stretch. Now in his fifth season, Beckham has reduced his strikeouts and increased his power. He believes he’ll gain a needed boost in average through improved contact.
5. How will Dayan Viciedo handle an adjustment to his swing?
Viciedo’s numbers -- 25 homers and 78 RBIs -- last season are impressive considering Manto believes the young hitter didn’t do anything right. The White Sox believe Viciedo has the potential to be a big star and refused to add a left-handed outfield bat because they didn’t want to stunt the Cuban’s growth. But they also want him to cut down on his strikeout total, so the plan is for the outfielder to add a leg kick to his approach to help him get his timing down.