New plan unfurled at hitting camp

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
4:25
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's hitting camp in the desert this week went off without a hitch, giving new hitting coach Todd Steverson the first chance to present a hitting approach that he promises to repeat ad nauseam.

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJose Abreu impressed his new White Sox hitting coach.
Under Steverson's tutelage at the club's Camelback Ranch spring-training facility were Paul Konerko, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Josh Phegley, Marcus Semien and top prospects including Courtney Hawkins and Trayce Thompson.

From batting cage work to live batting poractice and even during downtime, White Sox hitters were getting plenty of the Steverson philosophy.

"Yeah, I did talk about what we want to do as hitters, what I believe we will be successful at," Steverson said Friday. "It has been well chronicled that we weren't very disciplined last year as an offensive club.

"And I'll say it and say it time and time again, as a hitter your best swings are going to be off of strikes. Your best approaches, everything you want to have happen positive will be off balls you can handle in the strike zone. The more times we make the pitcher work to get his outs by staying in the strike zone, the better off we're going to be."

Steverson isn't going to apologize for being redundant.

"To get that thought process through to everybody I do harp on it quite a bit through batting practice and soft toss and all our routines," the former Oakland Athletics minor-league roving hitting instructor said. "Are you swinging at strikes? Was that a pitch you wanted? And they'll get it, they'll understand it, because I don't ever stop."

As far as first impressions go, Steverson was realistic in his praise of Abreu, the slugger who will carry some large expectations into 2014 after signing a six-year, $68 million deal this season despite never playing outside of his native Cuba.

"Well, if you're going on pure workouts or practice, he's got that down pat," Steverson said. "He looks nice. He's done a good offseason workout program. He looks like he has an idea, a plan of what he wants to do. His attack is compact and he has some thunder in the bat head. It's just (batting practice) and some drills in the cage, but as far as that goes I'm very pleased with what he came in looking like."

Steverson, who worked with Cuba native Yoenis Cespedes in Oakland, had an idea of what to expect with Abreu.

"And actually he looked better than what I thought was going to come out," Steverson said. "As (general manager) Rick (Hahn) has stated, he is a very serious hitter. He has a plan, he has an idea of how he wants to go about everything he does. He's pretty meticulous. He is a very strong man. He's not the kind of guy who will flat whip the bat around like Gary Sheffield bat speed or anything like that, but it's on plane and when he barrels up a baseball it takes off."

As for the two other White Sox newcomers, while Steverson gave positive reviews for both Eaton and Davidson, it is Eaton who already uses the new coach's strategy of working counts and getting on base.

"He wants it, he understands his game, and he knows he's got to get on base," Steverson said. "He will do everything possible to barrel up a baseball and put it play. He uses speed, he'll bunt. You hang one in the wrong spot or you put the ball in the wrong place he has the ability to juice you out of the yard for a home run. He really has a nice little package that he comes with. I think he's a great piece of the puzzle as it relates to us to start understanding getting on base and creating runs for this team."

Davidson is more of a work in progress and probably never will become an on-base percentage machine, but he has his own set of pluses.

"(Davidson) used the whole field during his workouts," Steverson said. "He showed the ability to drive the ball hard, off and over a wall to the opposite field which is a plus. It makes me say he can stay on a ball, stay over it. He's not just a pull-happy guy. I didn't get a chance to see him out on defense, but as a hitter I think he has a good clue of what he wants to do as a young player in this organization. The sky's the limit for both of these guys if they continue to work hard and learn the game of Major League Baseball."

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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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.11 178 149
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .320
HRJ. Abreu 33
RBIJ. Abreu 98
RJ. Abreu 71
OPSJ. Abreu .983
ERAC. Sale 2.11
SOC. Sale 178