Cool customer Gillaspie downplays 4 hits

CHICAGO -- Conor Gillaspie could always beat himself up with the best of them, but the fact that he doesn’t get too excitable means he’s always had half of baseball’s mental game solved.

The first two months of this season have shown that Gillaspie might now have the riddle completely figured out.

The Chicago White Sox’s second-year player had a career-best four hits Monday, three of them doubles, to help the White Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians, instilling the team with a much better feeling after the New York Yankees won the final two games of their last series.

It wasn’t so much that Gillaspie himself wanted the Yankees to leave town, but the third baseman must have been truly anticipating the arrival of the Indians. With his four-hit game, Gillaspie is now batting .529 (9-for-17) against the Indians this season and .465 (20-for-43) in 12 games against teams from the American League Central.

“Truthfully, it was just one of those days,” Gillaspie said, solidifying the concept that he doesn’t fall in love with himself after a little success.

“A couple of times they threw it right in the spot I was looking, and it’s just the way it goes. Against the Yankees they threw some good pitches, and I kind of got behind in the count a few times with some of those guys. It’s a good team win, and I think everybody was excited to be out there. It was nice and warm and humid. It was a good day to play.”

From the looks of it, every day seems like a good day to play for Gillaspie, who is batting .352 this season, an average that would easily lead the AL if he had the required 164 plate appearances (3.1 for each of his team’s games played).

He has 134 plate appearances, lower than needed because of a 15-day stint on the disabled list for a bruised hand. But neither the injury nor the time away has derailed Gillaspie.

Perhaps even more impressive is that the surprise No. 3 hitter at season’s start hasn’t changed his game to live up to the lofty standards that come with that spot in the order.

“They have their ways of pitching you if you’re hitting eighth,” Gillaspie said. “At this level there is just so much information out there that I would say wherever they need me, wherever I need to hit, you just have to be ready to play and ready to hit every day.”

With line drives up the middle toward the gaps, Gillaspie has been the hitter he has always been, just with more success than the one that batted .245 last year with a .390 slugging percentage. His three doubles Monday lifted his slugging percentage this year to .467.

“He’s a line-drive hitter by nature,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He does have power, and I think that’ll come. Part of it is he has a very level swing, but he hits things hard quite often. He squares things up just as much as anybody, and it makes him a very good hitter. Power-wise, eventually that will come.”

You don’t get the sense that Gillaspie is worried about tapping into a power source, just as long as he continues to hit the ball hard. It’s what he did before he was on the DL and what he continues to do now while not letting those rare times of failure get to him.

“I can’t complain,” Gillaspie said. “They continually give me chances and throw me out there regardless of how I did the day before. It’s a good feeling to know they trust me to hit where I hit in the lineup and to run me out there most of the time.

“Being comfortable and familiar with all the sights and sounds at this level of baseball, that’s half the battle for me.”