Beckham staying at shortstop for now
Chicago's first-rounder says he would play in outfield to get to bigs
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- By Gordon Beckham's recollection, he has played a sum total of two games as an outfielder while taking part in recent action at the Cape Cod amateur summer league.
He made his little bit of early fame at the University of Georgia as a shortstop, and hopes to find continued success and maybe even his fortune while playing the same defensive spot for the White Sox. But with Alexei Ramirez currently holding down shortstop, the combination of Josh Fields and Dayan Viciedo set at third and the possibility of Brent Lillibridge, Chris Getz or Jayson Nix emerging at second, the eighth pick overall in last year's First-Year Player Draft is willing to do whatever he can during Spring Training to speed up his trip to the Majors.
If that means playing a little outfield in Cactus League contests, then Beckham stands ready for the challenge.
"I'll play in the outfield if that's where they want me to play," Beckham said. "It doesn't matter to me. I like playing shortstop, where I've played my whole life, and I'm comfortable there. But if it gets me to the big leagues faster to play another position, I'm definitely OK with it.
"The outfield is a different game because of the angles you have to take, but the way I've thought of it is that if you can handle the infield, you can handle the outfield. I wouldn't mind it at all, and I would think getting some innings there in the outfield is not out of the question this spring."
This particular topic actually came up at SoxFest, when White Sox Minor League director Buddy Bell was asked about Beckham's future with some of the talented infield blockage ahead of him. One fan asked Bell if Beckham could play the outfield, and Bell responded that Beckham was a good enough athlete to play anywhere.
But Beckham's desire to get to the Majors quicker won't convince manager Ozzie Guillen to throw the organization's top prospect into uncharted waters. The outfield could possibly have one opening in 2010, if Jermaine Dye does not stay with the White Sox, but following the same philosophy he espoused last week with Viciedo, Guillen wants his young talent to stick with what they know.
"When Beckham gets to the big leagues, he's going to play every day, someway, somehow," Guillen said. "I don't want to put a title already on him that he's going to be a utility player. I'm not going to think about doing those crazy moves to get him here quicker, but I don't blame him to want to be in the big leagues quicker.
"Right now, I want to take him in one spot and one spot only. If the result after this year or a year later is that he's not going to be playing there, then we are going to make the decision at that time."
Over 58 at-bats with Class A Kannapolis last season, Beckham hit .310 with three home runs and eight RBIs. He continued that torrid start by posting a .394 average during the Arizona Fall League.
Look for Beckham to begin the 2009 campaign at shortstop with Double-A Birmingham. He might get a chance to play around the infield this spring, but Guillen doesn't seem inclined to test him out of his comfort zone at either of the corner outfield slots.
"My goal really is just to help this team any way I can," Beckham said. "It's a bunch of good guys, and when you have good guys you care about, it's more fun playing and you want to win a lot more."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.