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White Sox Mon Apr 15 2013

Conor Gillaspie Succeeding For Sox In Expanded Role

Sox_200.pngLast Saturday, with the Mariners in Chicago and Felix Hernandez on the bump, Conor Gillaspie was penciled into the lineup for his first start for the White Sox. Manager Robin Ventura sat several normal starters that day, and Gillaspie, recently acquired from San Francisco, would be getting his first at-bats of 2013.

Very quickly, he flashed some potential. In the fifth, with King Felix dealing, Gillaspie smacked a triple to right field. He hit the ball on the screws, hitting it so hard that right fielder Michael Morse misjudged the liner. Two batters later, Gillaspie scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one run apiece.

The third baseman finished 2-for-3 that day, and has been on a tear since: He's batting .444 (12-for-27) and has five multi-hit games in nine contests. He's a lefty bat in a lineup stacked with righties. His presence eases the pain of having Gordon Beckham out of the lineup.

Looking deeper into his splits, Gillaspie is crushing righty pitching (every one of his 27 at-bats have been against right-handers) and he only has three strikeouts. Also, though he's mainly been hitting seventh in the order, he's 10-for-14 when leading off an inning, setting the table for the bottom of the order. As for the eye test, Gillaspie has had his share of duck snorts (as Hawk Harrelson would say), but he is able to drive pitches he gets up in the zone, and he can hit to both fields.

With Beckham out, the Sox have moved Jeff Keppinger to second base so Gillaspie can play third. Each have been good defensively, though Keppinger has been struggling on offense, he can play multiple positions, so he's one of the major reasons why Gillaspie has gotten the opportunity to play (Gillaspie can play first base, but both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn block him at that position).

The only minor cause for concern is his walk rate. He has not drawn a base on balls this season. He is seeing 3.19 pitcher per plate appearance, one of the lowest marks on the team. This is in line with his career big league averages. Especially for someone with little power, it's important for Gillaspie to get on base as much as he can.

But don't fret too much. In his two Triple-A seasons, his strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn't too bad (133 punchouts to 107 walks), and he hasn't been swinging at many pitches outside the zone this year. The reason why for the zero walks can be because he's a young player who wants to make the most of his major league stint, and hitting the ball is more noticeable than taking walks. Or, maybe it's simply because he's so hot with the bat, he doesn't need be patient yet.

The Sox have had their issues this season: they were outplayed by a better Nationals team, and Cleveland was able to eke out a victory on Friday and tee off on Chris Sale Saturday. The Beckham injury undoubtedly came at a bad time, when this team needed all the help they could get.

The Sox dodged a bullet this time, as Conor Gillaspie has flourished in his short stint as a regular in the lineup. If he can keep hitting and gain some patience at the plate, the Sox may have found their starting third baseman for the rest of the season.

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