Jeff Keppinger is aiming to give his White Sox career a gritty reboot this spring, but three days into the official start of spring training, it's sticking too close to the formula of the original. Shoulder soreness has once again limited his activity.
The White Sox infielder said he was a little surprised at how he felt when he began his offseason program. While he is operating without restrictions and has seen progress, Keppinger said his arm strength is behind schedule. The White Sox intend to slow him down the next few days, manager Robin Ventura said Friday.
"It was super tight," Keppinger said. "But over the last few months it has loosened up a lot. It’s definitely coming along. I know the first couple of times I threw I wasn’t throwing much farther than 30 feet. I’m at about 120 feet now. I’m getting there. It’s just slow."
The hope for Keppinger is that everybody's focusing on the correct problem area from the start. Last season, he came into spring training while getting a broken leg back up to speed, and the shoulder woes arose because he had problems pushing off his back leg. Such distractions aren't in the picture this time around. It's all shoulder, all the time.
Unfortunately for Keppinger -- and fortunately for the Sox -- he's pretty easy to ignore if his shoulder keeps barking. Conor Gillaspie will get most of the action if Robin Ventura opts for a straight platoon, and either guy will likely be holding the fort down until Matt Davidson arrives, so that's not too many plate appearances to account for.
The worst-case scenario as it pertains to Keppinger is closer to a mere inconvenience in the larger picture. Without a right-handed complement to Gillaspie, it makes it a little more difficult to gracefully justify keeping Davidson in Triple-A, should they hold his service time near and dear. "Refinements" usually find a way to win the day regardless of what's happening on the 25-man roster, but it's always fun to see a team contort itself to make it work.
Speaking of Gillaspie, he comes into camp with an unrelated achievement under his belt.
PHOTO: Last month Conor Gillaspie caught the 11th biggest white tail deer in the U-S since the 80's. pic.twitter.com/3mHAlEFkSL— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) February 21, 2014
But he still has some work cut out for him in securing his spot on the team for a prolonged period of time. One of his early-season goals is trying to turn his perma-frown upside-down.
"Instead of coming in here tense and thinking about the game at 11 o’clock or noon and already starting to think about it, there’s really no need for that," Gillaspie said. "I’m starting to understand that won’t help you in the long run. ... My poor games last year were games where I couldn’t let it go, couldn’t escape from trying too hard. I think my goal this year is that I want to be somebody that will not be flustered by anything, that doesn’t get down, doesn’t get super excited. Basically, somebody that you can’t get in their head."