Jeff Manto has plan for struggling Sox
CHICAGO -- Just a few weeks on the job and new Chicago White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto already has a plan for the the three players that struggled the most at the plate this past season.
"With Dunn maybe we don't see too many pitches, maybe we do," Manto said Saturday on ESPN 1000's "Talkin' Baseball" show. "With Beckham maybe we swing a little bit out of our comfort zone. Maybe we get outside the edge a little bit just to see what it feels like again to be aggressive.
"With Rios, we'll just talk to him and say 'Listen, give me what you want me to look for and we'll go from there,' because he's extremely aggressive and maybe we have to pull him back. We'll see when we get there."
Those three players are what brought much of the criticism on former hitting coach Greg Walker. Beckham and Walker, both Georgia natives, had a tight bond, but that failed to translate to success on the field, especially in 2011.
That hitch that appears to be present in Beckham's swing is considered nothing more than a timing device by Manto. Instead of eliminating it, Manto just wants Beckham to solidify his mental approach when coming to the plate.
"With Beckham maybe when the second year came around, maybe he didn't make the adjustment fast enough and (things) steamrolled (on him)," Manto said. "To be quite honest I don't really know because I was in the minor leagues watching from afar. What goes on in the batting cage and the mentality I just don't know which is probably to Beck's advantage because we go in there with a fresh start."
Also on Manto's agenda is improving the White Sox's disappointing results from last season with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. The perception is that White Sox hitters were too anxious in clutch situations, but Manto's plan is to actually get more aggressive when it comes to the club's run producers.
"I'm not talking about some blatant swing-at-the-stuff-over-of-your-head stuff," Manto said. "If the situation calls for a guy being pitched around, yes I anticipate a guy taking that walk and paying attention to the plan.
"When you have two aces on the mound and you have the infield back with a man on third, I certainly expect somebody to come out of the strike zone just a little bit. Again, I'm not talking over your head, but drive that run in, take the groundout and get that RBI. When you have two aces, that game just might end 1-0 and I'm hoping we have that run."
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Known to stress a mental approach over a mechanical one, Manto will be cautious to not overwork White Sox hitters. He might have a tough time limiting a hard worker like Paul Konerko.
"We have guys come in there and do what we call getting their maintenance work in," Manto said. "As soon as you get the feel for what you want to feel get out of the cage. It could take 10 balls, it could take 20 balls to be flipped or thrown. After that it's time to go back and get mentally ready to play defense.
"But I do believe guys sometimes hit way too much. It's a fine line. You're talking about major league players who have a lot on the line and it will be our job to monitor that."
As far as a hitting mantra goes, Manto doesn't have one other than to treat each hitter as an individual instead of having them conform to a blanket philosophy.
"We have 12 hitters on a squad at one time and I have 12 different philosophies and basically every one of them is to be ready to hit and swing at a strike," Manto said. "I don't think it's anything more complicated than that. Sometimes my simplicity might be my demise because it isn't that complicated.
"If you're ready to hit and your total concentration is on the ball, 12 different hitters will do it 12 different ways and we run with it that way. There isn't one way to do it."
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com.