Between Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham, the White Sox have a lot of below-average hitters that they’re counting on to take up more than 500 plate appearances in 2012.
That’s too many, in my opinion.
But thankfully, Hitting Doctor Jeff Manto is making house calls!
“What I want to do is meet them face to face and explain what we are going to try to work on in Spring Training,” Manto told MLB.com during a Sunday night phone interview, mentioning that Flowers will be traveling from Georgia for the two-day session. “We’ll do it face to face, not over the phone, and have live pitching with it.
Note: Beckham is not really included in this, I just mentioned him because he’s a bad hitter.
There are of course, overtones to Camp Cora, and other pre-Spring Training workouts that would wave away the idea that is unprecedented early work, but shoring up the holes of the offense is the biggest task for the 2013 White Sox, so Manto might as well as exhaust the travel budget.
Viciedo has the most specific task at hand for the Winter, as Manto wants him to add a small leg kick to keep him restrained in the batter’s box, and thinks the extra time will be needed for it to be installed successfully.
“With this leg kick, the timing, his body will be behind the ball more often and give him a better chance for better contact,” Manto said. “He’s such a tremendous hitter, but sometimes he gets so excited getting after the ball.”
The idea that Viciedo flying open after pitches as something that needs to be curbed is the opposite of controversial, but installing a significant element into his swing over the course of three months is a risk. Manto acknowledges it may not take, and they need to just resign themselves to work on an approach Viciedo is already comfortable with.
Work with Tyler Flowers is supposed to center around keeping his “bottom half intact”, which is appropriate with a player with a massive hip-hitch in his swing. Yet work with Flowers is a totally different beast than Viciedo, who is still expected to bloom into a middle-of-the-order masher. Flowers, and most definitely Ramirez, are much more the beast that they are at this point. Flowers is trying to get working early, after two years of uneven labor, and Alexei Ramirez is seeking to recover from a year where he lamented his own work ethic, but major transformations should not be expected.
Off-season coaching stories are pretty disposable at this point. No one will look back to this moment and blame Manto if Flowers and Ramirez fail to transform into something more. They might not even remember it if Flowers blossoms into a league-average hitter and Ramirez returns to him old self. Veterans are expected to always be working.
But Dayan Viciedo’s development can be the saving grace of the offense, especially since the work being planned for him indicates that they’re planning as if he will stay. Given his importance, active efforts to bring along Viciedo are comforting now, even if their just window dressing come May.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan