White Sox sign Milledge to Minor League deal
Competition for team's final utility spot heats up for Viciedo
CHICAGO -- The topic of Dayan Viciedo's immediate White Sox future was addressed by Ken Williams during SoxFest two weekends ago at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago.
So, the White Sox general manager's Thursday comments to MLB.com were brief and direct concerning how the Minor League deal agreed upon with Lastings Milledge affected Viciedo's chances for breaking camp with the team.
"Viciedo is going to have to play well enough to warrant at-bats, or at least limited at-bats, to where he's going to be able to help us at the big league level," Williams said. "That goes for any of the younger guys, with the exception of Brent Morel.
"Morel has the type of swing that can be maintained and still get better if he plays four days a week. Defensively, we can use him and have a need for him as well."
Milledge, who turns 26 on April 5 and was the 12th overall pick by the Mets of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, immediately goes into the mix for the final White Sox utility spot. Alejandro De Aza, Brent Lillibridge and Viciedo also are part of that competition.
Lillibridge, 27, has the ability to play infield and outfield, while De Aza, 26, stands as the best defensive outfielder in the group but won't be helped by hitting from the left side with Mark Teahen and switch-hitting Omar Vizquel already in place. Both players add speed off the bench, while Lillibridge is out of options and De Aza has one remaining.
Being a Minor League deal, the option would not come into play for Milledge to start the season with Triple-A Charlotte. If Milledge's contract is purchased by the White Sox, then the outfielder is out of options.
In 113 games for the Pirates last year, Milledge hit .277 with four home runs, 34 RBIs and five stolen bases. His best season came in 2008 with the Nationals, posting a .268 average with 14 homers, 61 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.
Those 2010 numbers weren't ideal for Milledge. But in an MLB.com article at the end of the season, Milledge explained how his career was in its best position moving forward.
"I broke a lot of labels," said Milledge, who eventually was non-tendered by the Pirates. "I broke a lot of things that were said about me. That was a goal, as well, to get that negative vibe from over my head this year. I think that's bigger than hitting 30 homers. I think that's bigger than anything else, because now teams see that I've gotten a lot better as a player and a lot better as a person."
"Well, we'll see," said Williams, when asked if Milledge might be another White Sox diamond in the rough. "He's a talented kid that certainly is at the point to where he needs an environment such as ours to allow all the things I think he can do to flourish and be the player indicative of his talent."
Working in the third year of a four-year, $10 million deal, the soon-to-be 22-year-old Viciedo moved away from his first base/third base comfort zone and took fly balls during Camp Cora's unofficial January sessions in Florida. That change was aimed to give him another dimension as a bench player.
It was a move made before Milledge came on board to add to the competition. Viciedo can hit, with a .308 average, five homers and 13 RBIs produced in 38 games last year, but it's a matter of keeping that timing sharp if he's not playing.
"If he's not getting major playing time, he probably is not best served at the big league level," said Williams of Viciedo, who walked twice and fanned 25 times last season.