Other than catcher, where Tyler Flowers seems to have has the inside track, Ventura insists that all his position, bullpen and lineup decisions will come from players reaching out to grab the prize. Spring training, as well as past performance, is being relied on to make the choice.
Asked about the No. 2 spot in this year’s lineup, Ventura made it known Sunday that Beckham remains in the picture for a role that didn’t quite agree with him last season.
“It’s a possibility the way it’s shaking out right now,” Ventura said of Beckham as a No. 2 man. “That’s a possibility. You could have Alexei Ramirez) there too. There’s a few options to think about, we can tinker with.”
Going on 2013 numbers, there seems to be little need for a debate. In 142 at-bats last season in the two hole, Beckham batted .190 with a .245 on-base percentage. In 154 at-bats in the No. 8 spot he batted .325 with a .375 OBP. On the other side, Ramirez batted .288 with a .317 OBP as a No. 2 hitter.
The White Sox’s coaching staff is careful when judging spring performances, knowing that preseason statistics in the desert have their flaws. But they still want to see Beckham in action before making a lineup decision.
“We’ll find out,” Ventura said. “Everybody is going to be playing and moving around in the lineup so we’ll see what works. We had periods where (Beckham) batted eighth and did pretty good and went to second and wasn’t so good and back to eighth. It’s a natural spot for him. The way he plays and what he does at the plate, I think it’d be a good spot for him.”
One issue could be that Beckham over-thinks his duties as a No. 2 hitter, taking situational hitting to the extreme. By hitting elsewhere in the lineup he can take a less specific approach.
As the White Sox look for a consistent season from the once promising rookie, the best situation might be to let him settle into a comfort zone. Every year the talk in spring is about Beckham reaching the lofty expectations placed on the former first-round draft pick.
This year, the talk is about how he can overcome a broken bone in his hand and quadriceps issues late in the season.
“You get to a point where you want to stop hearing about that,” Ventura said, when asked about the annual story line of Beckham having something to prove.
“You just want to have people talk about you as a player instead of, ‘Well, you’re going to make it back from what happened last year.’ There’s nothing he can do about his hand. It’s unfortunate. But I know in his mind and the way he comes in, he wants people to be talking about how good a player he is, not the potential or making up for an injury. It’ll be nice when it gets to that point for him.”
Despite the lowest numbers of games played in 2013 since his rookie year in 2009, Beckham still feels there are positives to cling to.
“Last year I felt good about what I was doing and I think it was showing on the field,” he said. “I feel like I dealt with a lot and I felt like I had a pretty good year last year considering how healthy I was. To fight through that actually gives me more confidence for this year. I think I’m in a good spot and everything feels good. I just have stay healthy. If I can stay healthy I can do what I am capable of.”