06/13/11 2:43 PM ET
Williams believes Viciedo is ready to contribute
Young Cuban is hitting .313 with 10 homers, 45 RBIs in Triple-A
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Before Miranda could ask the power-packed young outfielder if he felt Major League ready, Viciedo provided a definitive response.
"I'm ready," said Viciedo in English during a phone interview with MLB.com
All White Sox parties agree that Viciedo is a Major Leaguer. The 22-year-old looked prepared offensively in 2010 when he hit .308 over 104 at-bats during his big league callup, but he didn't really have a definitive defensive position. Now, Viciedo has found a home in the outfield, leaving only a pair of questions to be decided about his future.
How will Viciedo be used with the White Sox? And when will he arrive? During a conversation with MLB.com, general manager Ken Williams seemed strongly inclined to get Viciedo up to the White Sox soon, but definitely not in a reserve capacity.
"It would be awfully interesting to have him in this lineup," said Williams of the player dubbed "the Cuban Tank." "He's ready. He's obviously got some things he still needs to work on, but I would have no qualms about bringing him here.
"I'm not going to bring him here to sit. [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] is not ready to change the mix he has right now, and that has to be respected."
Guillen always has favored a fleet-footed hitter at the top of his lineup. He watched the 2003 Marlins, with whom he served as third-base coach, win the World Series with Juan Pierre as the leadoff man. And he watched his 2005 White Sox claim their first crown in close to nine decades with Scott Podsednik setting the table.
In the 2011 White Sox lineup, that leadoff spot once again belongs to Pierre. He's a hard-working, upbeat and popular clubhouse presence, but has one strike going against him. The start to the present campaign has not been good for the 33-year-old playing in the last year of his contract.
After hitting .243 with a .286 on-base percentage in April, Pierre bumped those numbers up to .286 and .365, respectively, in May. He has since fallen to .225 and .311 in June. Pierre also has struggled with basestealing, checking in at just above a 50 percent accuracy rate (10-for-19), and has had some surprising problems catching the ball in left field.
Speed never slumps is a theory espoused by Guillen, who readily admits that he looks at the game in a slightly different way than does Williams. But even as a staunch defender of Pierre, Guillen is not locked into the speed factor if it's not productive for the attack.
"If you have speed and you can't hit, then we don't need your speed," said Guillen, speaking in generalities and not addressing Pierre specifically. "Speed is good when you get on base and you can hit, and that's what Juan has been doing lately.
"You always like to have some speed at the top to make things happen. This guy can run, but you can't steal first."
Williams and Guillen share the opinion of Viciedo needing to play regularly if he comes to the White Sox. Guillen set the bar at getting Viciedo out there five times per week, or for 20 or 30 at-bats, in order to continue his development and keep him productive.
Give credit to Viciedo for honesty. The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder, hitting .313 with 10 homers, 19 doubles and 45 RBIs for Triple-A Charlotte, wants to make an everyday impact when he gets the call.
"I love to play and I love to play every day," said Viciedo, with Miranda's assistance. "That's the kind of player I am. It's the only way to do what I'm doing, playing every day."
"He is slowly acquiring a little bit more plate discipline, and the ball comes off of his bat harder than anyone we have," said Williams, who regularly sees Viciedo through Minor League video feeds that he has at U.S. Cellular Field. "And the sky is the limit to where his potential can take him. Getting him off of third base and putting him in the outfield, it has really helped him start to make some progress offensively."
By his own admission, Viciedo came into Spring Training this season with a greater focus than in previous years. It was noticed by Guillen, who said that Viciedo put the White Sox on the spot, as they have to think about what they are going to do with him.
A fractured right thumb, suffered when hit by a David Bush Cactus League pitch, derailed Viciedo's rising challenge to break camp with the team.
"Now we know why we signed him and what we have for the future," said Guillen of Viciedo, who is playing in the third year of a four-year, $10 million deal. "Finally we put him in one spot and say, 'Let him play there and see what happens.'
"To me, he seemed like a kid who didn't care nothing about it. He seemed that way. But he definitely cares. He has pride. He matured as a man and matured as a player."
Viciedo will be in Chicago for two days this week to finalize his United States citizenship process. It might not be too long before Chicago becomes his permanent baseball residence.
Adam Dunn is locked in for three more years at designated hitter, and Alex Rios is set in the outfield for another three as well. There are those who believe that Viciedo and Carlos Quentin will become an either/or outfield proposition. Williams is not one of those people.
"That's going to be the trio of Chicago," said Viciedo of an outfield including himself, Quentin and Rios, with Quentin potentially moving back to left.
"There are some pretty good hitters in the lineup just mentioned," Williams said. "Someone else will have to figure out the leadoff spot, if that were something to think about."