Beckham can concentrate on RBIs
With Pierre aboard, infielder will likely slide down order
CHICAGO -- The short-lived unofficial reign of Gordon Beckham as the White Sox leadoff hitter came to an end last Tuesday morning when Juan Pierre moved from Los Angeles to Chicago via trade.
Beckham applauded this trade as loudly as anyone in the organization. But in a statement once again representing maturity far beyond his 23 years of age, Beckham likes the deal for how it positively affects the team more than how it potentially influences personal statistics.
"Getting Pierre is huge, and not because I'm kind of tied into the trade," said Beckham from his home in Georgia. "I just think it's a great trade.
"One thing I heard about Pierre is how great a guy he is. I've heard it from every person I talked to, and chemistry really does go a long way for a team's success.
"I'm excited he gets to play every day, and I'm excited for him to be our leadoff guy," Beckham said. "He sets the table, and it's up to us to drive him in."
And that innate run-producing ability became the primary reason why Beckham was not going to be the White Sox leadoff hitter in 2010 or any other year he's a fixture on the South Side. Sure, Beckham had a solid .347 on-base percentage during his rookie campaign, understands how to work a count and has enough speed to easily motor from first to third on a single, if not necessarily steal 25 or 30 bases.
In the course of just 103 games last year, though, Beckham drove in 63. He hit .307 with runners on base, hit .323 with 45 RBIs over 96 at-bats with runners in scoring position and hit .348 in 46 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen would rather have Beckham driving in runs and hitting sixth or seventh then sparking the offense from the very top. That job description also fits the main goals for Beckham, who has a natural ease at the plate even with the game on the line.
"I heard a long time ago, and I'm not sure who said it, I guess it might have been David Ortiz," Beckham said. "Someone asked him why he was so good in the clutch at the end of the game, and he said that he treated those at-bats the same as his first at-bat in a game. I'm trying to do the same thing.
"Just don't overthink it. If we have runners on second and third, I really want the RBIs for our team -- that's all. It's about results in baseball. As long as you don't put too much pressure on yourself, you will be OK. Get a good pitch to hit, take a good whack at it, and if it goes at someone, what can you do? Sometimes that's going to happen."
Guillen mentioned Beckham as a possible No. 2 hitter in the lineup, a spot where Beckham had 218 at-bats in 2009. Beckham picked up 34 RBIs hitting second, although he only batted .248. He hit .394 with 16 RBIs at the eighth spot in the lineup and hit .326 batting seventh.
Any position lower in the order will allow Beckham to flex his muscles instead of possibly altering his approach at the top.
"They probably didn't want me to run or bunt a bunch," said Beckham of the difference in leading off, a responsibility he never discussed with the White Sox during the offseason. "I don't think they wanted me to be a guy I'm not.
"Even though I think they were OK with me leading off, I thought for sure they were going to get somebody. I was willing to do it if it was the last option we had, but I just didn't fit really well there.
"Now, it doesn't matter where I hit," Beckham said. "If they want me to drive in more runs, they probably will hit me lower in the order. If they want me to get on base more, they probably will hit me second."
While uncertainty remains in regards to Beckham's slot offensively, his position in the field is set at second. To prepare for the change from third to second, Beckham will be in Florida from Jan. 12-14 to take part in "Camp Cora," run by bench coach Joey Cora.
Defense will be the focus, as Beckham will be joined by Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and possibly Alex Rios and hitting coach Greg Walker. All of this hard work is geared toward what Beckham considers a special 2010 White Sox season, buoyed by the recent addition of Pierre.
"Yeah, I'm excited because I think we have a chance to be really good," Beckham said. "I was watching the playoffs this year, and it was frustrating. I was thinking, 'That could be us, making diving plays and hitting the ball over the fence in big-time situations.'
"We have the team to get us there. If we can score, we'll be OK."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.