Manto likes Sox hitters' work ethic, approach

Manto likes Sox hitters' work ethic, approach

Manto likes Sox hitters' work ethic, approach
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Entering Thursday afternoon's Cactus League contest in Surprise, the White Sox featured a .260 average as a team and had scored 12 runs.

Of course, those numbers posted over three games wouldn't actually qualify as a significant sample size, and as most players will tell you, results in March in Arizona don't mean much, if anything.

Just ask new White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto, who feels confident about his charges simply by watching their work and their approach.

"Again, I have to keep on saying we have quality Major League players," Manto said. "We aren't here trying to build something. Something has been built. We just want to keep it rolling.

"So far, I've seen a lot of good quality at-bats. I'm happy where these guys are. I'm happy with the dialogue we are having, although a lot of guys don't have a lot of hits.

"I was concerned about if I was going to get quality at-bats," Manto said. "I'm seeing quality at-bats, guys running deep counts. They aren't just swinging to get out of the at-bat. I'm pleased with that."

Manto had to be pleased with what he saw against the Rangers on Thursday from Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham, two of the cornerstones on offense in need of a complete turnaround from 2011 to give the White Sox a shot at contending. Dunn blasted a three-run home run in the first inning off of Neftali Feliz, after fouling off a tough 1-2 pitch, and then doubled home Brent Morel in the third by launching the first pitch from left-handed reliever Michael Kirkman off the right-center field wall. Beckham followed with a two-run blast to left in the fourth.

When asked directly about Dunn, Beckham and Alex Rios, Manto provided some interesting nuggets of information about each player's early work.

Dunn: "He really is seeing the ball well, and let me tell you something, he's working his butt off. He also has a lot of positive things to say about himself.

"Sometimes when players have the year that he did, they get down on themselves. But he has stayed positive. He knows he's a very good Major League power hitter. So, he hasn't backed off that, which is great."

Beckham: "I've seen a lot of good cage work, a lot of good preparation. Great dialogue as well. What he's taken from the offseason into here is working well. We are adjusting a few things so I'm on the same page, but nothing major."

Rios: "His batting practice and his preparation have been off the charts. We are asking him to extend the ball further on the line and let the ball get out there. He's taking to it real well. He realized that's where he needs to be, in the middle of the field, and he hasn't backed off that at all."

An easy first instinct for Manto with these three players, and anyone else on the roster, for that matter, would have been to come in and try to imprint his particular changes immediately. That approach doesn't fit Manto's style.

He's about communication and input of the two-way manner.

"Any good coach listens first," Manto said. "That's what I'm going to try to do, listen and get the information that they want me to do for them. It's not my way or the highway. This is the information that I have to get done. Give me the information and when you need it, I have it for you.

"My job is to keep it consistent and to make sure everything stays even. I don't have any magic dust. I don't have anything to offer other than quality information. And the information I get is from the scouts and what I hear from the coaches and the players."

That approach seems to have resonated with White Sox hitters through two weeks of work. Tyler Flowers pointed up an example from batting practice Wednesday when he was getting quick. One of his keys is to slow his feet down a bit, which Manto presented to him.

"All of a sudden, I get back on track," Flowers said. "He's not a huge mechanical guy. He'll tell you if he sees something glaring at him, but he's really trying to address going up there with a plan every time, taking an approach that's compatible with what the pitcher's strengths are. [He's] trying to work and understand what that pitcher is going to do to you."

"Me and him are on the same page on a lot of things," said Dunn of Manto. "I think he realizes I do have a plan, whether people believe that or not. I do have a plan each and every time I'm up there. It might not always work, but I can go back to the dugout knowing it might not work out, but that's what I wanted to do."

Results were nice to see for Manto and the White Sox on Thursday. Manto knows great approach and hard work won't cut it if the White Sox don't start hitting when the bell rings on April 5.

Just ask Greg Walker, one of the more underappreciated coaches in Chicago sports annals. Yet, Manto is ready to take his chances with this group.

"Stress levels go up in April, but guess what? It's part of the gig," Manto said. "That's why we all come back for more. Am I ready for it? Of course I am. Do I know what to expect? Heck no, I don't. But right now there are a lot of positives happening."

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