Manto, Ventura discuss Beckham's approach

Manto, Ventura discuss Beckham's approach
April 19, 2012, 4:48 pm
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On Wednesday, Frank Thomas offered up his thoughts on Gordon Beckham's new hitting approach. In looking at Beckham, Thomas figured the second baseman could use a few days off to clear his head and really nail down his timing, which has escaped him in trying to get his front foot down.

While Beckham isn't in Thursday's getaway day lineup, don't expect him to get multiple days off to get comfortable with his swing.

"Any time you do something different, it's going to take a little time. But it's not like we're asking him to hit left-handed," manager Robin Ventura said prior to Thursday's game. "We're just asking him to get started a little earlier. It's something that happens to most guys -- everybody changes an approach or tinkers with things enough during the season that you're used to doing that. I don't see it taking a whole long time for him to do that."

Hitting coach Jeff Manto and Ventura are on the same page: Beckham's change really isn't very drastic.

"What we're asking is not invasive at all," Manto said. "It's a very easy fix -- it's a timing mechanism, it's not like we're moving hands, moving feet, moving heads -- it's just a matter of getting your foot down and the at-bat's over. Let the at-bat take care of itself once you get ready to hit. If we got a little bit to where it's invasive, that would be a problem."

The goal of having Beckham getting his foot down early is to improve his pitch recognition, which has escaped him for extended stretches since his outstanding rookie year. Since he hit .270.347.460 in 2009, Beckham's production has slid to a .238.303.351 line with just 19 home runs in 1,091 plate appearances -- only five more than he had in 430 trips to the plate three years ago.

Thomas and Manto agree that Beckham has too much talent to stay down for much longer. And Beckham's struggles haven't been for a lack of effort, either.

"He's been working his butt off in the cage every day, he hasn't backed down from the work," Manto said. "He's not complaining, he's staying positive, and he is close. Like Frank's saying, as soon as he gets the ability to stay behind the ball, he's going to be fine."

When he's going to be fine, though, is still the question. The White Sox have been waiting for him to be fine for three seasons now. Beckham's had flashes of his 2009 self here or there -- he had an .811 OPS through his first 13 games in 2011 and had an .877 OPS after the All-Star break in 2010 -- but he hasn't been able to sustain those bursts of success.

Perhaps working in his favor, too, is that the Sox don't have a viable replacement for him at second base in their organization. Eduardo Escobar hasn't hit outside of short spurts in Arizona, while Brent Lillibridge may not have the defensive prowess the Sox want.

Short-term, though, Manto won't panic if results don't start to come for Beckham as the Sox head to Seattle and Oakland. Although two-thirds of the year is a bit of an exaggeration.

"I hate to put a timetable on it, because you don't know what we're going to run into out west," Manto said. "But more importantly, he's in a good frame of mind, we just work it from there. He stays positive. Hell, we got eight months left, so there's no urgency."