Viciedo joins White Sox amid big expectations

Viciedo joins White Sox amid big expectations

Viciedo joins White Sox amid big expectations
SEATTLE -- The man dubbed by the fans as the savior for the disappointing 2011 White Sox season joined the team in the Pacific Northwest early Saturday afternoon.

And for Dayan Viciedo's first task in single-handedly making up the team's seven-game deficit behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, he sat on the bench during Saturday's contest against the Mariners.

"I talked to him. He said the flight feels like a 10-hour flight," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Viciedo's travels from the East Coast to the West Coast to replace Carlos Quentin, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 21 with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, suffered while making a diving catch last Saturday night.

"Either way, you land at 1 o'clock, and all of a sudden you arrive to the hotel at 1:30 and come here at 3 o'clock to play and face [Michael] Pineda, I don't think it was fair," Guillen added. "One day, no will kill him. [On Sunday], he will be in the lineup."

So, Viciedo will join the White Sox lineup at either first base or right field against Seattle's Jason Vargas -- about two months later than most White Sox supporters requested his presence. The promotion of Viciedo has been a hot-button issue for much of the current season, but took on a higher profile when general manager Ken Williams told MLB.com in early June that Viciedo was Major League-ready and that he was interested to see how the lineup would look with Viciedo regularly in there.

There was no clear-cut move to be made, though, in order to not only get Viciedo to the Majors, but get him in the lineup on a nearly everyday basis. That close-to-everyday playing time was a Viciedo priority for Williams and Guillen.

This logjam left Guillen to answer Viciedo questions for approximately four or five weeks straight. The manager was put on the defensive enough times that he had to call Viciedo to make sure the 22-year-old knew his comments were nothing personal, and that Guillen wasn't the one who didn't want him when everyone else did.

"I'm the manager. He understands," said Guillen, who had bench coach Joey Cora call Viciedo but also got on the phone to speak with the team's top prospect. "I said, 'Listen, I don't want you to think I have something against you. I was put on the spot, like what I should do?' The only guy I think was the main guy out was Juan [Pierre], and I'm glad I stuck with Juan. It worked out pretty good for us, so far."

"It made me feel good," said Viciedo, through translator Jackson Miranda, of the groundswell of support for him. "But by the same token, it's the team that makes the decision on personnel, so I just go about doing what they asked me to do in Triple-A. When it's time to come up, then I would be ready."

Being referred to as the force on offense needed to salvage the season is not a high bar to vault over, considering the prolonged slumps of key cogs such as Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and even Gordon Beckham. But Viciedo's Charlotte statistics certainly are worthy of attention, if not quite the hype and pressure placed on his 5-foot-11, 230-pound frame.

In 118 games for the Knights, Viciedo hit .297 with 28 doubles, 20 home runs, 78 RBIs and 60 runs scored. He played 95 games in right field and 11 at first base, after seeing time at third base and first base during his 38-game, 104-at-bat stint with the 2010 White Sox, when he hit .308 with five homers and 13 RBIs.

As far as where to play Viciedo for the final 4 1/2 weeks of the season, the low-key youngster is amenable to pretty much any spot Guillen chooses.

"Wherever Ozzie wants to put me," said a smiling Viciedo. "Actually, [being with the team last year] helps because I have the experience, so I know what to expect. And pretty much with the training I've done to this point, it's just an added bonus. I'm ready to go."

"Great shape," said Guillen of Viciedo's continued maturity in the physical-conditioning department. "I just saw him, and I said, 'I'm glad you keep yourself in shape. You handled this situation in the summer very well.' When you're in Minor Leagues and your name [comes] up every day, you say, 'What's going on here?' He handled it pretty good."

Minor Charlotte maladies with Viciedo's right wrist, suffered while diving for a ball in the outfield, and with a sore right thumb -- due to getting hit with a pitch -- are healed, and he is at 100 percent. The savior status brought a laugh from Viciedo, with such lofty recognition given after such little big league time -- albeit to an offensive force with electric ability at the plate.

"Let's see what happens," said Viciedo, in the third year of a four-year, $10 million deal. "Hopefully, everything will work out, and that's how I've been training, to come here and do what I'm supposed to do.

"It's the best feeling in the world. I want to be here for as long as I can. The biggest thing is to stay healthy and maintain what's going on."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.