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Saturday, May 11, 2013
Keppinger yanked from 2 spot

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- After six weeks of patience, manager Robin Ventura decided it was the appropriate time to drop the struggling Jeff Keppinger in the lineup.

Installed as the No. 2 hitter after arriving as a free agent in the offseason, Keppinger was moved to the seventh spot for Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. He was originally in the No. 8 spot, but when Conor Gillaspie was a lineup scratch because of an upper respiratory issue, Keppinger was moved up a spot.

“It’s more mixing it up,” Ventura said.

It stands to reason that with Keppinger’s .191 batting average and .188 on-base percentage in 27 games to start the season, it is probably more than a temporary change.

“You know what the track record is and you are trying to get it out of him,” Ventura said. “He fits in a lot of different spots in the lineup with the way he can handle the bat. So, hopefully there will be some guys on and he can knock in some runs.”

Keppinger is hitting well below his career-best .325 mark from a season ago with the Tampa Bay Rays, but that isn’t the White Sox’s only concern when it comes to his offense. Keppinger has never been one to work a lot of walks in his career, but nobody expected him to still have none at this point.

Last season, Keppinger walked 24 times in 384 at-bats, which doesn’t exactly make him a walk machine. But if he was operating at last season's rate, he should have at least seven walks to this point. He has walked as many as 51 times in a season, doing it in 2010 with the Houston Astros.

Among qualifiers, Keppinger sees 3.32 pitches per at-bat, which is 92nd in the American League. Only the Minnesota Twins' Trevor Plouffe, at 3.26, is seeing less.

Ventura gave Keppinger one-fifth of the season to figure out his issues, knowing the top of the order was bogging down the offense but not wanting lose faith too quickly. His patience was never rewarded.

“I think sometimes there are big deals made about it,” Ventura said about a player taking a significant freefall in the batting order. “Sometimes, you can’t put pressure on yourself and sometimes you can take it off.”

If Keppinger can start getting deeper into counts instead of forcing the issue at the plate, perhaps then Ventura will see some of that pressure wilting away.