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McPherson move pays immediate dividends

Dallas McPherson.
Dallas McPherson.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one mildly disappointed that Dayan Viciedo remained in Charlotte as Mark Teahen headed to the DL.

And I'm sure I wasn't the only one glad to see Dallas McPherson after the White Sox's 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers.

Ozzie Guillen found an immediate use for McPherson in the eighth inning, using him as a pinch-hitter for Brent Lillibridge with Gordon Beckham standing on first and one out. McPherson took advantage of the opportunity, smashing a single up the middle to get Beckham to third.

McPherson's first hit since Sept. 10, 2008, turned out to be huge, as Beckham ended up scoring on a wild pitch for the decisive run. It capped off a great day for the former second-round pick of the Anaheim Angels, whose entire career has been a war against disappointment and a bad back.

Guillen said he didn't know exactly how he would use McPherson, but he might get a second chance when they face Cleveland righty-killer Justin Masterson today. As well as Brent Morel played, I don't like his chances against a guy who is holding right-handed hitters to a .148/.242/.160 line. McPherson should be in the lineup, along with Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Adam Dunn, A.J. Pierzynski, and everybody else capable of swinging a bat the wrong way.

McPherson's promotion might not have been the sexy move, but it's the right move (or a right move, since calling up Viciedo probably wouldn't have been wrong). And with his important single on Tuesday and his handy handedness against Masterson, he could prove his worth in a hurry.

Warm journeyman fuzzies aside, I think the time for Viciedo is nigh, because there's a lot of dead weight on the roster. Looking up and down the OPS+ column, it isn't pretty. As of Tuesday:

  • Brent Morel: 41 (this should go up a bit after his homer)
  • Alex Rios: 53
  • Juan Pierre: 62
  • A.J. Pierzynski: 65
  • Gordon Beckham: 65
  • Adam Dunn: 95

Morel will get better with age (though maybe not by all that much this season), and Dunn has been fine against righties. But when it comes to the other four, none of them inspire any confidence in me that they're set to climb to their normal levels. The backs of their baseball cards say otherwise, but the clock is ticking on them to actually rebound while it can be put to good use.

With Pierre and Pierzynski, all you can do is shrug, because they were limited players to begin with. and age isn't on their side. Rios and Beckham are real concerns. Rios keeps trying to pull outer-half pitches (and everybody knows about his bad toe, which doesn't help matters), and Beckham is a mess. It's not just high fastballs he's struggling with -- in his at-bat in the fifth against Matt Harrison, he fouled back one thigh-high pitch, and then swung through another for the strikeout. Morel showed him up by turning around an equally fat fastball for a three-run homer.

Viciedo can't replace them, but he represents a solution to some other problems. Replacing Pierre in left field is the easy solution, but you could even spread the love around. He could give Carlos Quentin the mental vacations he requires (he's hitting .160/.246/.320 in May), and Dunn is 0-for-26 against lefties this season. Mark Kotsay induced giggles for his 0-for-25 performance against southpaws last year. Doing the math, this is one worse, and not nearly as funny.

That's not to say he would improve them, but he's shown he can. Plus, I'd like to see if his bold approach could energize the lineup. He's hitting .431./485/.655 in May, for crying out loud. His happy hacking might result in some ugly at-bats, yet it would be a welcome change from the offense's current poke-a-single-and-hope-nobody-gets-doubled-up mode. Hell, even his fellow free-swinging countryman, Alexei Ramirez, is ducking under strikes.

There is a way to play Viciedo on a near-everyday basis without completely giving up on any incumbents, but it's going to require some cage-rattling and the dreaded disrespect of veterans. It would be a little bit similar to the effect that firing Greg Walker would supposedly have -- a shock to the system, maybe some fear that others may lose their jobs -- except the change would involve a guy who actually picks up the bat. 


This two-game series with Cleveland could have some say in how long Viciedo will have to wait. The White Sox get no breaks from the pitching staff, because after Masterson is Fausto Carmona. Sure, the Sox roughed him up on Opening Day, but that was years ago. He's got a 2.56 ERA and is holding opponents to a .207 average since then.

Winning both games would put a dent in the Tribe's armor. The Sox would be 4-1 against the Indians, with two wins against their most seasoned pitcher, and one over a developing nemesis. Depending on who shows up, simple regression (or progression) would be way more valuable than any shakeup.

If the Indians sweep the Sox, it puts them 12 games apart, and it prolongs the Sox's struggles at home. Anybody pointing to the 26-5 run of 2010 will be reminded that the Sox were never more than 9 1/2 games out of first. It won't be long until Viciedo gets his day, but it won't be nearly as fun.

A split, by definition, changes nothing. And that has its own set of problems, because it doesn't force decisive action when it appears that a decision needs to be made. Viciedo is ready to go to the majors, and there are numerous Sox who seem ready for a replacement. The question is whether Guillen is so inclined, and there's a gut check on the horizon. Patch moves like a McPherson promotion make sense right now, but they won't work in these conditions for much longer.