New White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson knows how important patience can be with younger hitters.
That could be key as the White Sox head into next season with a bevy of younger players on the roster, including 24-year-old outfielder Dayan Viciedo -- who is coming off a disappointing campaign -- outfielder Avisail Garcia, 22, and Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, 26, who is set to debut in 2014.
Steverson, whose hiring Friday was confirmed by a baseball source, has been the minor-league hitting coordinator for the Oakland A’s for the past two seasons. He also managed within the A’s farm system from 2005-08. In a series of interviews with OaklandClubhouse.com, Steverson talked about his approach to hitting.
“Everyone has to understand that the game of baseball is a process,” Steverson said. “It’s not like football where you come out of college as a highly-touted running back and all of a sudden you are doing things. Football players have an adjustment period, too, but the adjustment period for a baseball player can take a little longer. It can take a year. A month, two months, two years. There are guys who spring up from other organizations all of the time and it’s like ‘where did this guy come from?’ Then you look at his background and you see that he was with two or three different organizations. He just finally got it. The ‘got it’ factor just sometimes takes a long time.”
As for how he likes to work with players, Steverson realizes every hitter is different. But he still believes one aspect of hitting is common for all players and likes to work from that base.
“Everybody is individual as it relates to their approach,” Steverson said. “Everyone has different sets as it relates to their hands. Everyone’s got different loads, what have you. But what we like to say is that learning to approach the pitch is a lot more similar to everybody than their personal mechanics. The approach and putting yourself in position to hit mistakes that are thrown up there by the pitcher are really where it’s a common ground. We want everybody to be able to be in the strongest position with their legs, so they can see the baseball. One of the biggest things about hitting is being able to see the baseball. To be able to do that, you’ve got to get ready and prepared with an early body movement to get your legs to be a strong base so you can see the ball longer.”
Viciedo is coming off a season in which he hit 11 fewer home runs than he did in 2012, when he finished with 25. The Cuban product has power to all fields and former hitting coach Jeff Manto worked with Viciedo, whom the club believes has star- and middle-of-the-order potential, on a similar approach.
The 2014 campaign could be a make-or-break year for Viciedo as he starts to make significantly more money. Viciedo, who earned $2.8 million in 2013, is arbitration eligible for the first time in 2014 as he achieved Super Two-status. While he is expected to earn roughly the same amount in 2014 as he did last season, Viciedo’s price tag could begin to shoot up immediately after next season.