Keppinger's rehab to take the next step

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
3:45
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeff KeppingerJ. Meric/Getty ImagesIf the season started today, Jeff Keppinger would be the starting third baseman, according to GM Rick Hahn.
CHICAGO -- New Chicago White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger is set to move forward in his recovery from a broken leg this week, with an aim on playing as much in spring training as possible.

Keppinger, whom the White Sox officially signed to a three-year, $12 million deal Monday, broke his leg in a fall at his home last month.

"I thought I just rolled my ankle and sprained it," Keppinger said Monday. "I was wearing flip-flops coming down stairs and just slipped. I thought I could catch myself and I just didn't land right."

Keppinger will have his walking boot removed Tuesday and move toward the next phase of his rehab. He made no guarantees he will be at full speed when position players report to Arizona, but was told by doctors that he should be ready. He is expected to be at full season when the regular season begins April 1.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the team already was pursuing the veteran at the time of the injury, but upon hearing he was hurt, it gave the club pause.

"It probably slowed things down a beat so that us and the other clubs involved could get the copy of the medical records and the post-(operation) report and then the follow-up report," Hahn said. "It may have slowed things down by a week or two but there was certainly a great amount of interest in him, and we were there from the start.

"Once we were comfortable with the prognosis on the fracture, we were right there back in it, and we were able to close something off (at the winter meetings) despite the fact there was a fair amount of competition for him."

Among the teams that had serious interest were the New York Yankees. So it was interesting to hear Keppinger say Monday that part of the reason he chose to come to the White Sox was because he wanted to get to the postseason.

"I've never seen the playoffs so that's something I'm striving for, and I really like the city," Keppinger said. "I want to be there in Chicago."

As the team is constructed now, Keppinger would appear to be getting the bulk of the action at third base. He can play any spot on the infield and has actually played more games at second base and shortstop in his career.

"Obviously if we were to start the season today, I would expect he would be the Opening Day third baseman, but there is still a fair amount of the offseason to go so we'll see how it plays out over the coming months or weeks," Hahn said. "He certainly, at this time, plugs what was a hole for us, but he has the flexibility and the versatility to allow us to be creative with other options as the offseason unfolds and even the next couple of seasons."

Part of those "options" could be the freedom to shop second baseman Gordon Beckham if the White Sox wanted to improve in other areas. In Keppinger, the White Sox know they have somebody who can take over at second base, but there would remain a void at third.

Interestingly, Beckham and Keppinger are both University of Georgia alums, although Keppinger was already gone by the time Beckham arrived.

"I think we're going to have a blast," Keppinger said about playing with Beckham. "I think we're going to push each other pretty good. I'm definitely striving to be the better Bulldog so we're going to have a fun time playing together.

"I don't know him too well. I met him a couple of times when he was in school in Georgia and I'd go up there and work out, then just running into him last year and playing against him. Other than that, I don't know him too well."

Playing for six teams over eight different seasons, as Keppinger has, means friends come and go. But there is one former teammate he is interested in hanging out with.

"Actually, I'm looking forward to seeing Adam Dunn again," he said. "I played with him in Cincinnati and me and him were pretty close."

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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BA LEADER
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RBIJ. Abreu 98
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