White Sox benefit from Gordon Beckham's calm at plate

White Sox benefit from Gordon Beckham's calm at plate
May 29, 2014, 11:45 am
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When he steps in the batter’s box these days, Gordon Beckham is in a position of comfort he has rarely found in his career.

Now in his fifth full season, Beckham has taken advantage of that ease to produce one of his best months since 2010. The White Sox second baseman attributes this run, which has entered its fourth week, to adjustments made with hitting coach Todd Steverson, but said it’s largely the product of “letting it happen.”

Since May 6, Beckham has a .360/.391/.558 slash line with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBIs and 15 runs in 92 plate appearances.

The production hasn’t gone unnoticed by the White Sox coaching staff and it has also caught the attention of the front office, which is in the process of determining what do with its former first-round draft choice.

“He’s at a comfort level he hasn’t had the last couple of years of knowing who he is, and the confidence he has day to day is part of it,” Ventura said. “Mechanically you have to do things right, but mentally you have to go with that too. He’s just in a good spot.”

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Perhaps more than anything other time in his career, Beckham seems relaxed. The irony is Beckham’s tranquility comes at a tumultuous time in regard to his future.

With free agency upcoming after the 2015 season and him earning $4.175 million, Beckham is no longer a cheap option for his club. That means the White Sox need to decide whether or not to extend Beckham’s contract or try to trade him, a possibility made likely because the farm system is flush with young, talented middle infielders.

But earlier this month, Beckham said he’s not concerned with the “what-ifs,” he’s just worried about playing.

It shows.

Part of his focus can be attributed to Steverson, who has worked with Beckham to rid his mind of negative thoughts and concentrate on the positives.

“(Steverson) has given me some suggestions, but ultimately he just wants me to be athletic and do what I do so there’s no real easy way to describe what that is,” Beckham said. “I just know I’m getting to a good spot to hit and just letting it happen.”

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Beckham hasn’t been missing his pitches much the last 21 games, especially fastballs.

That hasn’t always been the case for the University of Georgia-product.

Entering this season, Beckham had only a .255 average and a .380 slugging percentage against two- and four-seam fastballs in 1,240 at-bats, per brooksbaseball.net.

This season, his average has risen to .329 and he’s slugging at a .425 clip in 73 at-bats. But those numbers include the first two weeks of Beckham’s season after he returned from a left oblique injury — a period that essentially acted as the end of his spring training.

Since Beckham got his health and timing back, he’s hitting .400 in 45 at-bats with a .511 slugging percentage.

Overall, Beckham has a .872 OPS in May, his best month since July 2010. In between the promising early days of Beckham’s career have been a lot of ups and downs that came with learning on the job. The No. 8 pick in the 2008 draft, Beckham received only 344 plate appearances before he was promoted to the majors in July 2009.

Beckham burst onto the scene and produced a .808 OPS in 2009 and finished fifth in the American League rookie of the year vote.

For one reason or another, Beckham hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations thrust upon him after his rookie campaign.

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He struggled mightily in 2011, where his .633 OPS was the fifth-lowest among qualified hitters in the majors.

Beckham lowered his strikeout rate and finished 2012 with a decent September/October. He felt primed for success ahead of the 2013 season but missed 50 games after suffering a broken hamate bone in early April and later battled a quad injury for the final six weeks.

But Steverson has asked him to forget it all. He has tried to work with Beckham to worry about right now and to move on from his failures. Though they have only had a few months together, Steverson sees when he needs to intervene and likes what he has seen from Beckham so far.

“I try to kind of be his alter ego a little bit,” Steverson said. “If he ever tries to sabotage himself at all, I try to step in when I recognize that. That’s part of my job is to help them with their mental part of the game. It’s easy to get mental or take the negative side of it because that’s the easiest way to go. To stay positive is the hardest thing to do.”

Steverson said Beckham has done a good job of forgetting about bad at-bats. Blocking out the bad also seems to have carried over to the clubhouse where Beckham shows little concern about his future.

He just knows he likes the position he’s in and hopes to stay.

“It’s just me going to play the game and whatever happens,” Beckham said. “I’m just trying to barrel the ball up and be a hitter. Whatever comes from that will come from that.

“You don’t miss it as much, I would say, if you’re in a comfortable spot and feel good about where you’re at.”