Thursday, February 7, 2013
Viciedo, Flowers into swing of things
By Doug Padilla
Dayan Viciedo hit 25 home runs in his first full major league season in 2012.
CHICAGO -- Forget the late-season slump and the struggles against right-handed pitching, the Chicago White Sox remain supremely confident that Dayan Viciedo will emerge as a powerful force in the American League.
The latest to pick up the cause for the right-handed power hitter was hitting coach Jeff Manto, whose handiwork will be evident from the moment spring training begins.
"We're going to ask him to add a little leg kick for a timing mechanism," Manto said Thursday about the slugger who won't even turn 24 until next month. "That's not going to be a big deal."
Actually, it could be a very big deal if Viciedo uses the leg kick to trigger the kind of explosive season the White Sox are counting on seeing at regular intervals.
The curious case of Viciedo is that despite 25 home runs, 78 RBIs and a .444 slugging percentage in 2012, the White Sox still see so much untapped potential.
"He's going to get better once he gets the timing down," Manto said. "That's what's scary about this guy -- he didn't do a lot of things right and he had those numbers. Once he calms himself down and understands what the pitchers are doing to him, he's going to be a big-time impact player. I really believe that."
General manager Rick Hahn addressed a Viciedo inquiry at SoxFest by saying the reason the White Sox didn't show interest in a left-handed hitting outfielder like Jason Kubel is because a move like that would make Viciedo a platoon player. The White Sox aren't about to cut into his playing time, even if he only batted .225 with a .380 slugging percentage against right-handers.
"The numbers he put up (in 2012), they're legit," Manto said. "It's a shame he got a little cold at the end of the season, but these are numbers he can sit on."
Manto has not worked one-on-one with Viciedo this offseason, but he did have hitting sessions with Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel in the days leading up to SoxFest last month.
Known as a hitting coach who pays ample attention to the mental side of the game as well as the fundamental, Manto has been focused on Flowers' thought process. Flowers heard all the disappointment regarding A.J. Pierzynski's departure and is anxious to get going in 2013 to make the catching position his own.
"He's going to try to win over the fans, if you will, and make an immediate impact," Manto said. "The challenge will be to keep him focused on what he can do. He has to realize he's a young player, and he will make mistakes. We just have to move quickly from them.
"(His production) may be better, it may be as good, we don't know what is happen. We're going to let it play out. The No. 1 thing is handling the pitching staff."
At SoxFest, Flowers addressed the comparisons with Pierzynski that are expected to head his way and hopes that everybody can be realistic. His primary goals for the season and the same ones Manto envisions.
"I'm going to strike out more than A.J., so we can go ahead and get over that," Flowers said. "I'm not worried about striking out or statistics to be honest with you. I hope the statistics look good at the end of the year, but the biggest thing is catching and handling the staff.
As for Morel, who is coming off a season of back issues, Manto suggests to not write him off so fast, even though Jeff Keppinger looks destined for the starting third base job.
"(Morel) had no reservations about swinging the bat," Manto said about the hitting session they had a few weeks ago. "It was the same bat speed he had when I saw him in lower minor leagues. You can see there is something different in his eye which is nice to see. He's coming to compete for a job and he's not keeping it a secret either."