GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Each player has his own way of addressing the past and moving forward.
Gordon Beckham said he plans to take a carefree attitude into the new season, so much so that he said he’ll adopt the psyche of a honey badger. Adam Dunn has always been a loose, laid-back kind of guy and that won’t change any, but the veteran slugger did do work in a batting cage for the first time in more than five offseasons. And Alex Rios, well, he’s so superstitious that he really didn't want to talk about any changes he plans to implement at the plate this season, except to say that he watched plenty of film from his more fruitful 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The Captain Obvious statement of spring training might be that the Chicago White Sox will need strong bounce-back seasons from those aforementioned players in order to be successful. But to proclaim that the level of success the club will achieve hinges on how much they contribute would be inaccurate. From the pitching staff to the position players, there are more than a handful of players who are looking to either resurrect their careers or make significant progress in their development.
Beckham, Dunn and Rios have insisted they’ve forgotten their 2011 campaigns. They readily acknowledged it when they reported to spring training on Saturday, but none of them wanted to rehash what went wrong and why. Can you really blame them?
Right now, all they’re being judged on by first-year manager Robin Ventura is what they do today and in the immediate future.
“They’re hungry,” Ventura said. “I like that. You’re paying attention to how they come in, seeing these guys come in early. Adam, we had [hitting coach Jeff] Manto go see him in Houston. Those are signs to me that guys are hungry to come back and play well and they’re willing to do that for the team, and that’s important. It’s showing everybody else on the team that they’re already in. They’re willing to come in and work and do whatever’s necessary.”
For Rios, that meant analyzing film from his 2006 and 2007 seasons in Toronto, when he totaled a .299 average, 41 home runs and 167 RBIs. Rios said he’s not trying to copy what he did at the plate during those seasons, but rather take certain things from them. If anything, he’d like to duplicate last September’s output, when he hit .307 with five home runs and 11 RBIs. Rios sounded certain he’s bound to have a comeback season, similar to the way he followed up a subpar 2009 with a respectable 2010.
“You know what, I know I can do it,” Rios said. “It’s not something I’ve had [that] all my years were bad. I know I can still play and it will be normal. If I have a good year, it’s something that I expect. It’s not something… it won’t be a surprise.”
For Beckham, it’s about becoming the player the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 8 pick of the 2008 draft. Beckham started hitting in December and said he needs to have a more aggressive approach at the plate.
“That’s something I sort of lost the last two years,” Beckham said. “It had to be more perfect. I’ve worked on getting back a little sooner, make sure I’m loaded and having lag in my bat. Having that makes you hit off-speed, bad pitches all that stuff. You can get fooled and still hit it hard.”
Probably just as important is Beckham taking a different mindset into the season. He’s looking forward to the coaching changes and how a different year and surroundings can have a positive affect.
“I’m just going to work as hard as I can and remember to enjoy it and I think sometimes I take it way too seriously,” Beckham said. “I want to do so well for this team, the fans, for myself that sometimes it gets too much of me.”
Like Rios and Beckham, Dunn didn’t make excuses for last season, and he even shrugged at the suggestion that his second season against American League pitching could be a good thing.
“I kind of know how teams are going to try to approach me,” he said, “but again last year was such a ‘whatever,’ I’m sure I’m going to have to relearn it all over again.”
Ventura said he’ll have patience.
“I’m not going down the list but there have been a number of guys who have had down years,” Ventura said. “Maybe not to the extent of other guys, but some guys go somewhere and it doesn’t feel like that vibe that year. It just happens. It’s part of playing the game, and that makes it difficult. But [Dunn’s] had success in the past, and that’s what I’m counting on. I’ve seen him play. I’ve seen him do well. And I want him to come in and be prepared to do that. He has a clean slate.”