By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The time is now for White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham.
The former No. 1 pick in 2008 has been hard pressed to show the same offensive skills that made him a Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2009. Last year was an injury-plagued season for Beckham, who missed time at the start of the year with a hand injury and struggled with a leg injury as well.
Beckham enters his fifth full season with a question mark as to his future with the White Sox.
“Going through some struggles, it was annoying for me,” Beckham said. “The fact is I feel I have come through it mentally and personally, (and it) makes me believe I am that much stronger. I have been down pretty low at times, so there is not much that can get to me now.”
Beckham has kept his cool on the field, playing Gold Glove-caliber second base, after he was switched from third base his rookie year. But along with a .380 career slugging percentage, that won’t keep you in the starting lineup forever.
A significant change in batting style helped Beckham hit for his best average (.267 ) since 2009. A deep crouch reminiscent of hitting king Pete Rose dramatically impacted his year. Now, Beckham would like to try and add power and run production to his game.
“When I got down on my legs, it helped keep me in a good place and not lunge at pitches,” Beckham said. “This year I won’t crouch down as much in order to get more body into it. Confidence-wise, it was more of a feel thing (deep crouch).”
New White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson becomes Beckham’s third hitting coach in the last four years.
“I like what he has been putting out there,” Beckham said. “He has stayed on top of my approach, reminding me on good and inconsistent habits. He has made the transition a real positive experience.”
Beckham and a number of other White Sox hitters had a communication breakdown with Jeff Manto last season, which led to a change at hitting coach. In fairness to Manto, no one in the batting order had anywhere close to their normal career numbers except Beckham and Aleixei Ramirez.
Manager Robin Ventura is unsure who will bat in the No. 2 hole behind new lead-off man Adam Eaton. Beckham is a candidate, though he’s not concerned where he bats.
“I am going to hit second or eight and nine,” he said. “With all going well, I think me hitting in the second spot helps the team. I can handle the bat a little bit, and it would help the team if I hit there and hit well.”
Numerous teams inquired about Beckham in the offseason One stellar year at the plate could re-establish Beckham as the leader of this team after Paul Konerko retires.
Bruce Levine is a baseball reporter/analyst for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.