When the White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract in December, there was some generalized concern about the number of years being guaranteed to a 32 year-old career part-time player, but the low total value of the contract kept most gripes down to a suitable volume.
That affordable $4 million-per-season rate in an otherwise barren and hopeless 3rd base market, easily could have been enabled by the fact that Keppinger had a broken right tibia at the time he was committing his signature to paper, sustained when he fell in his house a month the previous month. GM Rick Hahn acknowledged that the market initially recoiled:
“It probably slowed things down a beat so that us and the other clubs involved could get the copy of the medical records and the post-(operation) report and then the follow-up report,” Hahn said. “It may have slowed things down by a week or two but there was certainly a great amount of interest in him, and we were there from the start.
“Once we were comfortable with the prognosis on the fracture, we were right there back in it, and we were able to close something off (at the winter meetings) despite the fact there was a fair amount of competition for him.”
The injury was not supposed to pose a threat to Keppinger being ready for Opening Day, but recovering from a broken tibia is not automatic, and what are athlete Twitter accounts for if not for providing injury news. From Jeff Keppinger‘s account–which still lists him as a Tampa Bay Ray because it’s mighty difficult to alter a Twitter bio after it has been verified–we have this.
Finally got to pick up a bat today!!!First day of dry swings!Looking forward to being full go!
— Jeff Keppinger (@JKeppinger) January 14, 2013
“Dry swings”, refers to just taking cuts without any sort of target or pitching, which I suppose constitutes the “wetness.” While Keppinger being healthy by April wasn’t in question, his full participation in Spring workouts very much was.
Now, with news that Keppinger is swinging a bat with still a month until position players report to Glendale on Feb. 17, his complete participation in workouts is a much more realistic goal.
How excited anyone should actually be for Keppinger to go through all of Spring Training is debatable. He’s 32, so it’s hard to imagine that an extra-long, WBC-bloated camp is really necessary for such a veteran, especially an injury-prone one. But since the first year is where Keppinger can be expected to earn most of the value of his contract, it’s pretty important that he’s healthy.
At this stage of the game, everyone is optimistic about being as prepared as they have ever been for a season, especially on their Twitter accounts that they opened primarily to communicate with fans on. But it would be a shame to start getting intensely skeptical in January, when there’s all of September still to worry about.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan