Decision ahead as Beckham progresses

Gordon Beckham is getting even closer to a return which will leave Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura with a decision to make.

Beckham, who fractured the hamate bone in his left hand on April 9 and had subsequent surgery, is slated to start a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte by the end of the week. He figures to be back to Chicago at some point during the next homestand which begins Monday and runs through May 28.

When Beckham was injured, Conor Gillaspie took over at third base, while Jeff Keppinger moved over from third to second base. When Beckham returns, Keppinger could end up becoming the utility man.

Keppinger is making $3.5 million this season, while Gillaspie is making less than $500,000, but it's Gillaspie who looks far more comfortable at the plate after six weeks, while also supplying a little power.

Among White Sox players with at least 20 at-bats this season at the start of play Wednesday, Gillaspie's .284 batting average was tied for the team lead with Alexei Ramirez, who was recently installed as the new No. 2 hitter in place of Keppinger. Gillaspie also has three home runs, seven RBIs and nine walks.

Keppinger, on the other hand, has struggled in his adjustment to a new team after batting a career-best .325 last season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Keppinger also has no home runs, six RBIs and no walks.

Not known for his defense, Gillaspie has played a solid third base with the occasional flair to make the spectacular play. Gillaspie and Keppinger each have two errors, but Keppinger's 125 chances are far more than Gillaspie's 74.

Ultimately, though, the White Sox are in need of offense and Gillaspie's approach at the plate suggests that he will give more moving forward. Not only that, but he would give the White Sox a third left-handed bat in the regular lineup and better balance all around.

As for Beckham, he has progressed quickly from hitting off a tee over the weekend, to flips in the batting cage and ultimately a live batting-practice session this week. Dialing in the mechanics of swing will be one thing, but getting the feel he had this spring and on into the first week of the season is the ultimate challenge.

“It's just a matter of going back and getting in games,” Beckham said during the previous homestand. “I know the way I felt and I haven't lost that feeling.”