Lillibridge eager for starting role

Lillibridge eager for starting role
January 28, 2012, 7:47 pm
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As it stands, Brent Lillibridge isn't in line for a full-time starting role in 2012. The only way that'll happen is if someone gets hurt, or someone has significant struggles coming out of the gate.

Fortunately for Lillibridge, if that someone plays any position but pitcher or catcher, he's ready to jump in. After all, there's a reason why he has to carry around more mitts than anyone during spring training.

"I'll bring the three gloves around -- I don't think I'll need the first base one too much, hopefully Paulie will be healthy this year -- but I just gotta keep working at it," Lillibridge said. "It's a lot more work carrying a bunch of gloves around, but I have to be ready for anything."

Such is the life a super-utilityman. Lillibridge mostly served as a reserve outfielder last season, making a pair of spectacular plays in New York and robbing a would-be go-ahead homer from Coco Crisp during the summer. He's a natural middle infielder, though he didn't play shortstop at all and only saw 19 innings at second base in 2011. In fact, the infield position Lillibridge saw the most time at was first base, as he logged 129 innings there after Paul Konerko was hit in the knee by an Andrew Miller fastball in late July.

"I would assume, given the numbers, I'd get a lot more infield work now that Omar Vizquel's not with us," Lillibridge said. "It's kind of hard to back up him when he's one of the best infielders of all time."

With more opportunities for playing time opening up, Lillibridge should have a greater opportunity to repeat his 2011 season. In 216 trips to the plate, Lillibridge smacked 13 home runs -- a career high for any professional level. While he still struck quite a bit, his .340 on-base percentage mitigated those concerns. And 18 of his 48 hits went for extra-bases.

A long offseason -- made even longer by Lillibridge suffering a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch Sept. 8 -- has its psychological pitfalls, though, following a breakout performance.

"More of it's the mental side of it, understanding the approach and stuff," said Lillibridge. "You don't try to do exactly the same thing, because when you don't change a thing, you end up doing stupid stuff."

If Lillibridge can sustain his success of 2011, he very well may play himself into a starting role, either in center field or at second base if Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham start slowly.

Even if those players don't falter, though, Lillibridge wants to make it a difficult decision for Robin Ventura to leave him on the bench.

"You always want to move up. I want a chance to start and some point. The team, it is what it is, we have a great team," Lillibridge said. "But I'm going to make it hard. I'm not going to settle for a role just being a bench guy, I'm hoping to get an opportunity.

"I'm always looking for more at-bats, more innings -- I'm not greedy, my goal is to get better and get a chance to be a starter at some point in my career."