Viciedo making progress on learning curve
Left fielder confident in ability to field new position, hit
MESA, Ariz. -- With one out and runners on second and third in the second inning of the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Cubs at HoHoKam Park on Sunday, Alfred Amezaga sliced a drive toward the left-field line that Dayan Viciedo moved over quickly to corral off a couple hops.
Once Viciedo got to the ball, he had a hard time picking it up cleanly. Tony Campana followed with a single to left, which Viciedo hesitated on at first, but then came in and fielded without issue to hold Amezaga at third. Neither play directly influenced a run scoring, but instead they point to the 23-year-old's learning curve as he tries to master his third position since joining the White Sox.
Viciedo originally appeared to be slated for right field in 2012, the spot he played for 116 games last year between stops at Triple-A Charlotte and Chicago, after originally coming to the South Siders as a third baseman. But the White Sox realigned their outfield, with Alex Rios moving to a more familiar right field, and Viciedo learning on the fly that all corner outfield spots are not alike.
"Yes, it's much different," said Viciedo, through manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda, in comparing left field to right field. "There are a lot of different angles and the ball is coming in at less of a distance.
"Little by little, I'm getting more comfortable. It's going well, but it's just something that I'm working hard on in order to familiarize myself with a little bit better."
He has four hits and just one extra-base hit to go alone with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Spring Training numbers such as these could be damaging for a young player trying to make an impression, but Viciedo pretty much was anointed the team's third starting outfielder once Carlos Quentin was traded to the Padres on New Year's Eve.
In the fourth year of his four-year, $10-million deal, it is time for Viciedo to step up on a regular basis and move past 206 combined big league at-bats coming over the past two seasons. To Viciedo's credit, he is not panicking over a poor Cactus League run.
"Initially, I wasn't feeling as good," Viciedo said. "I was feeling a little strange at the plate, but as the games have gone on, I'm getting a little more comfortable. Of course I would love to have some better results, but as of right now, I'm working on being a little bit more patient at the plate and working on stuff with my stance."
But what if the White Sox did the completely unexpected and decided to start Viciedo at Charlotte? He could spend time polishing his play in left field in a situation with less pressure.
A combination of Brent Lillibridge and Kosuke Fukudome could platoon in the vacated starting spot, with Eduardo Escobar filling the last roster vacancy as the team's primary utility infielder. That scenario seems rather unlikely, with Fukudome having never played anywhere but center or right, the White Sox committed to having Rios in right and Lillibridge's greatest value coming in a versatile super-sub role.
Then, there was White Sox manager Robin Ventura speaking following Sunday's 10-inning victory, showing great conviction and support for Viciedo right where he currently is located.
"He's starting in left field on Opening Day," said Ventura of Viciedo, flashing a smile indicating thoughts of Viciedo being anywhere else would be somewhat ludicrous. "He has looked better in the last week as far as what I'm seeing and the work he's putting in. I'm happy with what he's doing."
Even the discussion of a possible fourth straight Minor League start is handled in pragmatic fashion by Viciedo, who exhibits a veteran calm beyond his years. He wants to help the White Sox and knows he can and will, regardless of a Spring Training funk.
"I would be disappointed for sure, but wherever they send me, that's where I would go and that's where I have to play," Viciedo said. "For the most part, it's something that this is a business. So you just got to do the best you can do to stay up in the big leagues.
"That's not anything that I think about. I really just come out here to work my butt off and do what needs to be done in order to make the team. I come out here and do what I'm told and hope to get results."