Lillibridge aims high in pre-arbitration year

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If given the choice, Brent Lillibridge would leave his outfielder and first baseman gloves at home and just focus on playing shortstop.

Even manager Robin Ventura sees Lillibridge’s greatest value to the Chicago White Sox is in the infield. But Lillibridge said he doesn’t let his ego get in the way regarding the position he desires to play. With so much at stake for the 28-year-old personally this season, he just wants to play, period.

“It’s a big year for me personally, just to get into arbitration and really hopefully get a big payday for myself but also hopefully get a lot of at-bats and really help this team,” Lillibridge said. “I’m really excited to see where we can go this year.”

Lillibridge hit .258 with 29 RBIs in 186 at bats last season, playing every outfield position plus first base, second base and designated hitter last season. But the biggest change for Lillibridge this season won’t even come on the field. Instead, he’ll be adjusting to new hitting coach Jeff Manto after spending the last three years with Greg Walker, who helped the utility man focus on efficiency and mechanical flaws. Lillibridge has known Manto since coming up through the Pirates organization and said he loves his approach.

“He just wants to see what we see and feel what we feel as our swings go and I think it’s a great approach as a hitting instructor,” Lillibridge said.

If Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios continue to struggle at the plate, Lillibridge could expect to see more playing time. But Lillibridge is of the thinking that if he produces results he’ll get more at-bats no matter the circumstance.

“You know, I would assume that’s the plan but like anything I have to do well,” he said. “I have to have good at-bats, I have to have results and just keep playing well and they’ll put me in there. But if I don’t, then I don’t expect to play. It’s just one of those things so I’ve just got to continue to improve on what I did last year and like I said just work really hard on swinging at really good pitches, really battling when I’m not feeling great and just try to improve.”