By Bruce Levine-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — In the past, White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham always had a position that was his to play, but 2015 will present a new challenge.
Beckham still carries the mentality of a starting player. The difference this time around is the White Sox would prefer that the young Micah Johnson wins the battle at second base. In addition to the speed factor Johnson brings (more than a 100 stolen bases combined in the last two minor league seasons), a .300 batting average is what the team would like to add to the revamped offense this season.
To that end, the 28-year-old Beckham was told before he signed re-signed with Chicago — he’d spent his whole career with the White Sox before an August trade to the Angels — that a super-utility role may be his 2015 destiny.
“I am still competing for the second base job,” Beckham said. “I have to play the other positions as well in case that doesn’t work out. I am moving all over, and it has been kind of fun for me. I enjoy that.”
This scenario was laid out for Beckham before he signed a $2 million contract in January. He had to understand that time at second base, shortstop and third base would be part of the expectation for him this season, though he’d have a chance to win a full-time job like anyone else in camp.
“How do I look at competing?” Beckham wondered out loud. “I am just going out and putting my best foot forward. I have been working hard at all three positions. For me so far, it has kept everything fresh. I have fun moving around. After all, I grew up playing the left side of the infield. This has been very easy for me to jump back in. It all has been a little different, but I like the guys and like the group.”
As a defender, Beckham has few peers. The quandary for him has been his offense, which has brought his development to a halt. After a strong rookie season in 2009, Beckham has become a career .245 hitter with a .307 on-base percentage and struggled to drive in runs. He hit .226 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 2014.
“If I don’t win the second base job, I believe playing five to seven times a week all over will be the job,” Beckham said. “I am all right with that. They know I can play defense and add value in a number of different ways.”
As for Beckham’s offense, his cerebral approach may have taken his game down a notch in past seasons.
“My swing has been a lot better this spring,” Beckham said. “My stance is more like it was when I first came up. Last year, I was searching for many things at the plate. I finally realized some things lately that make a lot of sense. I wish I had figured some of this out earlier. Now I am not worried about my stance — just concerned with what my hips do. That area dictates what my body does when I swing.”
Beckham admits to over-thinking the offensive side of his game in recent times.
“No doubt, I over-thought things in the past,” he said. “I really care about winning and badly want to do it in Chicago. When you are that intense, you can add a little too much pressure. There is a real good reason why some guys who act like they don’t care are really good at this game. They learned early on not to get too tight. You learn you must take the good and the bad and have that not-give-a-crap attitude either way.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.