By Chris Emma-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) — In the passing days after the season’s first pitch, White Sox manager Robin Ventura could sense a lack of comfort in his rookie second baseman, Marcus Semien.
The talented 23-year-old was pressing and stressing, showing little confidence in his daily routine. Semien’s focus was lost in locking down a place with the White Sox’s lineup. Ventura offered a vote of confidence, making it clear to Semien that he has a place on this team.
White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton knows those words offer brief satisfaction.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t go very far,” Eaton said. “Your mind is still in the way. It’s tough. There’s a lot of scrutiny in this game.”
Every day is a battle for Semien. He must separate the short-term goal — filling Gordon Beckham’s hole in the White Sox’s lineup — from his ultimate vision, which is sticking with the major-league club in Chicago.
Beckham’s future with the White Sox is far from certain, and his oblique injury has offered Semien the opportunity to chance for time at second base. Perhaps with continued strong play, Semien can create a platoon for this season. The eventual goal — a real possibility — is to earn a regular spot in the starting lineup.
“There’s an opening there, and I’m trying to take advantage of it,” Semien said.
The San Francisco native keeps it California cool on the outside, but must steady his mind for a long season.
The year hasn’t started as Semien had wished. His batting average dipped to .214 after an 0-for-5 on Tuesday night. Yet, the White Sox must count on him at second base, even through struggles. This is his chance, and he wants to make the most of it.
“There are going to be ups and downs,” Semien said. “It’s a tough game. I’m happy that I’m getting a lot of playing time here. They’re giving me a lot of opportunities.”
Semien was drafted in the 34th round of the 2008 draft by the White Sox, but didn’t feel ready for a professional career. He spent three years playing college baseball at California and took his game to new heights.
Three years later, the White Sox drafted Semien again, but this time in the sixth round. He excelled at each level of the minors, working his way to the big leagues in September of 2013. Semien has never had issues settling in at any level of the game, something which has been difficult in the majors.
Paul Konerko, the White Sox’s team captain, defined what Semien’s mindset must be in order to have success.
“If this guy throws a fastball down the middle — I don’t care if it’s here or Birmingham or Charlotte — I can hit that pitch,” Konerko said. “Worry about what you can do instead of worrying about one of the best relievers in the game.”
That’s what Semien is trying to do. It’s his opportunity, and a golden chance is at his grasp. When Beckham returns to action, Semien’s job will change. He’ll play a utility role, working in at second base, shortstop and third base. For now, his task is to spell Beckham and keep producing at the plate.
Semien’s skipper likes him in the two hole of the lineup, where he can set up the meat of the White Sox’s order. He has some pop in that bat, too. Ventura sees the potential.
“He’s a confident kid,” Ventura said of Semien. “… He’s just getting a good opportunity because of Gordon’s injury, and he’s taking advantage of it.”
The reality is there for Semien. He could become the White Sox’s starting second baseman. The golden opportunity is at his hands. Yet, this topic hasn’t even been discussed between Semien and the organization.
“We just talk about playing the game, playing the game right and playing the game with a lot of effort,” Semien said. “That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
That’s all Semien can control right now. Perhaps a grander vote of confidence will come down the road.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @CEmmaScout