OAKLAND — He has heard the chatter for months now and the rumors will only get louder now that Micah Johnson has arrived at Triple-A Charlotte.
Even though his future with the White Sox appears uncertain, Gordon Beckham can’t afford to pay attention to the possibilities. The second baseman said Tuesday he’s focused on baseball and not where he may end up. Beckham prefers to stay with the White Sox, who drafted him in the first round of the 2008 draft.
But with Johnson, Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia all talented, young and affordable, it’s almost certain the White Sox are open to trading Beckham, who is earning $4.175 million this season, to fill other needs.
“If we’re consumed with 'what-ifs,' we’re not going to be very good at our job,” Beckham said. “It is what it is. It’s out there.
“I can’t worry about that stuff. It’s not a worry. This is probably the least amount of pressure I’ve ever felt playing a baseball game. I’m not worried about my personal place. I’ve been here for a while. Some good, some bad. I feel comfortable in this locker room. I feel like I’m playing good baseball and having good at-bats. That’s all I can do and then the rest is going to take care of itself no matter what I do.”
The White Sox don’t want to divulge what they plan to do with their loaded middle infield.
But it’s clearly the area with the most depth in the organization. Asked about the plethora of prospects, general manager Rick Hahn said: “This is a good thing.”
Johnson’s development has been a great thing for the franchise.
A ninth-round pick in 2012, the White Sox felt like they drafted a first-round talent in Johnson, whose stock dropped because of an elbow injury that popped up again at the end of a strong 2013 campaign.
Johnson had surgery to repair the nerve issue and has been fantastic this season at Double-A Birmingham. He was promoted Tuesday after a .329/.414/.466 start with 13 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 170 plate appearances.
Along with the strong play of Semien in the majors, the White Sox are confident about their future up the middle. They’re just as happy about the play of Sanchez, 22, who has a .282/.364/.344 line with 10 RBIs at Charlotte and plays multiple postions. And Garcia has proven to be a talented athlete who can play all over the diamond since he came over in the Alex Rios trade last August.
Whether the White Sox would ask any of the above players to move to the outfield remains to be seen. But one scout thinks if Johnson doesn’t stick at second base he could eventually handle a move to center field.
Where all of this leaves Beckham only Hahn and the front office know.
One offseason report suggested the Toronto Blue Jays had interest in Beckham. The Blue Jays entered Tuesday 19-20 and within striking distance of first place in a winnable American League East.
The New York Yankees also are in need of infield help and there was speculation in spring training they might have interest in Beckham, too.
None of the distractions seem to have bothered Beckham, who has looked very comfortable the past two weeks as he gets further removed from an oblique strain that sidelined him for nearly a month. He entered Tuesday with a .296/.333/.444 slash line and two homers and six RBIs in his last 57 plate appearances.
“It’s not always easy, but for him, he’s a good player,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a major league player. Even when you hear whispers that come from the outside about guys who are doing well in the minor leagues, you still have to go out and compete and do what you can do. He’s done a good job of doing that. His mind has been pretty clear in just going out to play instead of feeling like there’s a pressure of anybody behind him.”
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Beckham knows he can’t be consumed by the future and remain effective. If he’s not dedicated to his daily routine, he won’t be good for any team, let alone the White Sox.
So while rumors are his reality, it does him no good to pay attention.
“Rick has got a plan and he’s probably going to follow through with that plan whether it’s now or whenever,” Beckham said. “He’s got an idea of what he wants in his head and I’m sure that’ll come through at some point.
“I hope I’m here for a long time. But you never know and all I can do is go out and play my game and hope that’s what they want here for a long time.”