GLENDALE, Ariz -- Gordon Beckham has heard the trade rumors. He can see the competition building behind him at second base. They’re standing a few feet away.
On a practice field at the Chicago White Sox spring training facility, Beckham is the first to take ground balls at second. Next up is Leury Garcia, acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Alex Rios deal last summer. Now it's fellow second baseman Micah Johnson, who has risen fast through the White Sox minor league system after stealing 84 bases last season. There's also Carlos Sanchez, a 21-year old who in January was named rookie of the year in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Beckham knows the situation. If he doesn't produce in 2014, there could be someone else at his position next season -- or possibly even sooner.
"Nobody had told me that I'm not playing second [this season], so I assume that I am," Beckham said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "You won't be able to tell the future but Rick [Hahn] has got an idea in his mind about what he wants to do and that's great. I think he's done a great job, him and Kenny [Williams] have handled that really well. I'm here. For as long as I'm here I'm going to be excited to be on the White Sox, and first and foremost I'm a White Sox for life. They drafted me. This is where I want to be. I can say, 'Well, maybe somebody else will man that position someday,' but for me I have no intention of going anywhere, and it's time to go prove that."
By now, you've probably heard Beckham's story: about his breakthrough rookie season in 2009, the huge expectations that followed, and his struggles at the plate that have prevented him from becoming the star he seemed destined to become.
"I'm kind if tired of talking about it. I kind of want to be about it," said Beckham, who showed flashes at the plate last season, but was dogged by injuries. It started with a broken hamate bone in his left wrist that cost him almost 2 months. Then there was a different wrist problem after the All-Star break, followed by a strained right quad that bothered him for the last six weeks of the season.
"I felt good for a little bit of time and I mean that, a little bit," he said about last season.
Feel free to question Beckham's hitting. What you can't dispute is his character. He knows Garcia, Johnson and Sanchez want to eventually have his job. That's professional sports. But instead of giving them all a cold shoulder, he's out to do the opposite.
"I want to help those guys, if anything," Beckham said. "There are a lot of young guys that [the White Sox] like a lot and that's great. The White Sox have been incredibly good to me and have always backed me up when a lot of people haven't, so it's my job to make sure that the next generation, if there is such, if they want to move on, is ready to go and fill that void."
Why do you want to help the younger players who want your job?
"Why not? They're baseball players. If they end up playing second base for the White Sox and I'm somewhere else, then I owe it to them to bring them up like people brought me up," he said. "People gave me a lot of grief all the time, but this is a brotherhood from bottom to top. They're looking for me to not be that guy, and I just want to help them if they want help and get them ready and get them better for years to come."
If you listen to sports talk radio or the fan sitting in the row behind you at U.S. Cellular Field, there are many who believe the White Sox should have given up on Beckham. But the team has remained patient, waiting for him to shine.
"I've obviously played under a lot of scrutiny over the years, but I'm still here, so I think that says enough. That says enough that the White Sox believe in who I am and what I can do on the baseball field and what I bring off the field to them," he said. "They've appreciated that and I've appreciated the fact that I can go out there and compete and work through some tough times in my life."
One of Beckham's closest friends on the team is Paul Konerko, who has served as his teammate, mentor, and a quasi-hitting coach -- always having Beckham's back. When the White Sox take the field for every game, Beckham always makes sure he's looking at Konerko's back, following right behind the leader as they leave the dugout. No one wanted Konerko to return for another season more than Beckham, who purposely didn't shake the captain's hand after the final game of 2013. It would have felt too much like a goodbye.
"And I didn't want to regret that," Beckham said.
Fortunately, Konerko has returned for one more year. Will this be Beckham's comeback year?
"I feel like I'm right there," he said. "I just need to stay healthy and go out there, and I think I can have a season that's memorable."