2/26/2013 4:49 P.M. ET
Viciedo is getting a kick out of spring
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As Dayan Viciedo stood in left field at Scottsdale Stadium during the first inning of Monday afternoon's game against the Giants, he received a bit of firsthand reinforcement for a change the White Sox are trying to get him to employ.
Pablo Sandoval has reached two All-Star Games as the Giants' third baseman and was the 2012 World Series Most Valuable Player. He also employs a front leg kick, as has been recently added to Viciedo's swing, while maintaining an aggressive approach.
"I think he's starting to see a lot of players who hit like him. They have a leg kick for timing purposes," said White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto on Tuesday. "We walked in yesterday, and the first guy we saw was Sandoval.
"We are not taking away your aggressiveness. We are just making sure you are aggressive within the confines of your swing. He's seen his peers do it, so it makes more sense to him."
Viciedo begins his second full big league season with the potential to be an elite offensive force in the American League. During 2012, when Viciedo switched from right field to left field in Spring Training and battled through offensive highs and lows, he still hit .255 with 25 homers and 78 RBIs.
He finished the season strong with six hits in 13 at-bats during the final three games in Cleveland, knocking out three homers and driving in eight runs. Viciedo then had to deal with an offseason of speculation, ranging from a position switch back to third base, to his name in reported trade talks, to a left-handed bat being brought in to basically forge a platoon with the 25-year-old who hit .350 against lefties and .225 against righties.
None of those scenarios came to fruition, but none of the speculation mattered to Viciedo anyway. He has an easygoing, mature demeanor pushing him well beyond his Major League experience and age.
"You know, I just tried preparing myself for whatever decision that was being made," said Viciedo through translator and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "It's all part of being part of the team.
"Whether it was third base or whatever it was, wherever they were going to send me, I prepared myself. I trained hard this offseason. No matter what the decision was going to be, it's out of my hands. That's baseball."
It hasn't always been the easiest road to travel for Viciedo since arriving with the White Sox via a four-year, $10 million deal prior to the 2009 season. Some expected Viciedo's immediate ascension to the Majors, and while he certainly looked ready as early in 2011, Viciedo went through three full Minor League seasons.
A small example of Viciedo's immense offensive talent came in his first game after getting called up in '11, when he hit a laser off the Mariners' Jason Vargas for a three-run homer to right-center at Safeco Field. He also batted .552 (16-for-29) with four homers and 13 RBIs from May 24-30 last season, including six multi-hit games and four multi-RBI efforts.
Simply put, Viciedo has the ability to carry the White Sox when in a groove. There are also those stretches where it seems as if any offspeed pitch on the outer half has him flailing and missing. As Manto pointed out, the White Sox want Viciedo's leg kick to help him be a bit more disciplined within the context of his always-aggressive nature.
"I'm working on it, and more than anything, it's timing," said Viciedo. "That's another thing, another element, I can work on and improve upon. It's all about what the occasion demands, what the situation is. The most important thing I think about is making solid contact, good contact."
"What I think is really good about it is he's convicted to do it," said Manto of Viciedo, who struck out 120 times and drew 28 walks in 2012. "We keep on forgetting that he's young. We look at him and we expect more from him because he is so good and his hands are so fast. There are weeks at a time where he impresses you so much, he's like a veteran. That's what's impressive about him, how he's adapted so quick."
This leg kick doesn't fall in the "love it, learn it" category for Viciedo. Manto stressed that if it doesn't work for Viciedo, it will be removed. But the White Sox and Viciedo certainly are trying to make it work.
While becoming a hitter along the lines of Sandoval and his .303 career average is possible for Viciedo, the White Sox don't want Viciedo to mimic the San Francisco third baseman's present conditioning. Viciedo has fought hard to get into solid shape and has taken his time to achieve his now somewhat established veteran status.
"My mentality throughout my entire time with the organization has been wherever they put me, that's where they feel I'm going to perform best," said Viciedo, who added he still feels like "a kid, a rookie."
"I need to work hard whatever level I was at," he said. "I wasn't in a rush. I didn't get impatient. I knew that there was a plan for me and that they knew exactly where I had to be."
"Dayan knows how to handle himself throughout a season," Manto said. "He was even-keeled to where you never had to deal too much with the mental side to it. You never had to deal with the emotion of it all: Just a hiccup here or there. That's a true sign of a big leaguer."