GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This extended spring training has given his broken leg ample time to heal but even Jeff Keppinger is ready to head to Chicago.
Although he arrived at spring camp last month yet to begin his throwing program and without much of a chance to test his ankle, Keppinger has accomplished all he hoped.
He has been able to do so at his own pace because of a lengthier spring training schedule to account for the World Baseball Classic. As the White Sox head into their final few days at Camelback Ranch, Keppinger admits he’s just as antsy as the rest of his teammates to get the regular season started.
The White Sox have three games left in Arizona before they head home on Wednesday night. The team then has two exhibition games at Milwaukee and a workout at home next Sunday before its April 1 opener against the Kansas City Royals.
“We’ve done all of defensive stuff that we can, all our drills we could possibly do, our pickoffs, rundowns, cutoffs and relays,” Keppinger said. “There’s only so many ground balls you can take and you continue to take them all year long too. Spring training is to get your body doing all that stuff on a daily basis and once you basically get that done its timing offensively. As soon as you get that down, you’re ready to go. It’s just a matter of waiting it out until it’s actually time to go. “
Manager Robin Ventura just hopes his team stays healthy for the remainder of its stay.
His club has been dinged up over the last two weeks: the status of relievers Jesse Crain (hip) and Leyson Septimo (arm) is up in the air, John Danks hasn’t fully recovered from shoulder surgery and outfielder Alex Rios missed Saturday’s game with a stiff back.
Only a week after his status was in question, Keppinger has progressed much to Ventura’s liking.
“He’s caught back up,” Ventura said. “Offensively he’s been there the whole (spring). He has been great. Defensively he’s caught back up and looks fine, feels good, so just cross your fingers that we make it to Opening Day where everybody’s feeling good.”
Keppinger has been upfront with the club since he arrived in camp in February.
Although his rehab went well in the offseason, Keppinger couldn’t begin to throw until he joined the team because he couldn’t properly push off his right leg. With an extra week in camp, Ventura’s staff had the flexibility to allow Keppinger to build his arm strength slowly. They had him appear as a designated hitter several times before he later moved to the field.
When shoulder irritation began to slow Keppinger two weeks ago, Ventura gave him several days off to get through the rough pitch. Now the third baseman feels good. Keppinger also has had a chance to show his legs are fine as he scored from first base on a double on Thursday.
“(The extra time) helped me get through that first 10-day, two-week period where my shoulder wasn’t really doing too good,” Keppinger said. “It’s allowed me to build that up and get it up to strength. Even running wasn’t something I had done before I got here. The extra time helped me out a lot. I haven’t felt the ankle since two to three weeks after we got here. … I’m ready to go. Now it’s just wait it out.”