Beckham is coming to the big leagues
Top prospect likely to see time at three infield positions
CHICAGO -- There were no trumpets blaring or any sort of official proclamation issued by Chicago Mayor and ardent White Sox fan Richard M. Daley when the news became official late Wednesday night.
Just a simple statement made to the media in the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center, prior to Ozzie Guillen's press conference and after a 5-3 loss to the Athletics.
Gordon Beckham is coming to the Majors.
"I hope I can sleep tonight and not think about it," said Guillen with a broad smile and a sarcastic tone to his comments.
"Beckham, he's going to play," Guillen continued, returning to more serious analysis. "Where [is] he going to play? We are going to find out how we are going to start him. We'll move him around, play a little bit of third, second and help the Missile [Alexei Ramirez] play a little shortstop. But I have to get him at-bats."
Guillen's words strike directly to the core of Beckham's callup, as one thing concerning this situation stands as a certainty. The White Sox are not bringing to the Major Leagues their top pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and the eighth selection overall to have him ride the bench. Beckham will play, and he will play often, taking the roster spot of Wilson Betemit, who will be designated for assignment before Thursday's contest.
From the looks of his numbers starting in Spring Training and carrying over through 2009 stints at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Beckham should play well.
Over the course of 45 combined games this season, he hit .326 (57-for-175). He appeared in 32 games at shortstop, four at second, one at designated hitter and eight at third base, where he started following his Charlotte promotion. Beckham also knocked out four home runs and 23 doubles, to go with his 25 RBIs.
"Yeah, he's got some talent," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who served as a mentor to Beckham with their Spring Training lockers stationed next to each other at Camelback Ranch in Arizona. "He has a chance to be a really good player.
"He can definitely hit. I don't know about defensively, but everybody has work to do when they come up. It's a different game up here, so we'll see what we get tomorrow."
Pierzynski put Beckham through his own sort of big league initiation during Spring Training, frequently moving Beckham's equipment bag if it dared to cross into Pierzynski's locker territory, as a humorous example. Beckham took the good-natured ribbing in stride, showing a maturity beyond just the 59 Minor League games he's played as a professional.
"We've become good friends," said Pierzynski of Beckham, with the duo clearly putting aside their Florida-Georgia rivalry as teammates and friends. "He's great. He likes to have fun. Hopefully he'll come and fit in and do well."
"Good for Beckham," said White Sox first baseman and team captain Paul Konerko. "He's a good kid, a good player. I'm sure it has all happened kind of fast for him, but I'm sure the plan now is that he doesn't go back down. He's up, and hopefully he stays up for good."
Along with questions concerning where Beckham would get his at-bats, Guillen was asked if Beckham has enough experience to succeed at this elevated level of competition. Beckham, 22, has a career .322 average and will reach the Majors in just 364 days after being drafted on June 5, 2008.
For that particular answer, Guillen deferred to people such as White Sox Minor League director Buddy Bell and general manager Ken Williams, who have greater firsthand knowledge of Beckham's work this season.
"Well, I got a lot of confidence in Buddy Bell and the Minor League system," Guillen said. "I have plenty of confidence in my general manager and assistant general manager Rick Hahn. Here's the reason: They think he can play, and we are going to find out."
"This guy is a little bit more polished, and he may need less time," said Konerko of Beckham's collegiate experience at Georgia paying dividends. "But, yeah, it's quick. There's no argument there. But, again, I have a hard time believing Buddy Bell is going to watch a guy play and say this guy is not going to be able to help this team. He's just too good of a baseball man."
Betemit, 27, batted .200 over 45 at-bats and 20 games with the White Sox, but his abysmal defense at third made it tough for Guillen to provide him more playing time. Beckham's arrival also will cut into playing time at third for Josh Fields, who Guillen said will start working some at first as a new backup to Konerko, and at second for Chris Getz and Jayson Nix.
Hype surrounding Beckham makes it seem as if he can play third, shortstop and second all at the same time, but the White Sox just want him to be one of the 25 guys, with his play on the field eventually causing any additional fanfare.
"He's not the savior," Pierzynski said. "Just one piece."
"White Sox fans and the media should be happy now," said Guillen with a wry smile. "He's here. I hope he can save us."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.