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No. 2 spot in White Sox lineup up for debate

No. 2 spot in White Sox lineup up for debate

No. 2 spot in White Sox lineup up for debate
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It has been a source of debate on whitesox.com message boards.

High-quality White Sox blogs have written in-depth pieces on the matter.

Yes, since manager Robin Ventura anointed A.J. Pierzynski as his No. 2 hitter early on in camp, one frequent topic of conversation has been whether Pierzynski fits that role. Pierzynski stands as an adept handler of the bat, meaning he doesn't strike out much and makes solid contact.

But the White Sox catcher walks a little less frequently than he strikes out. So the question becomes whether a No. 2 hitter is better served as a guy who can advance and hit behind a runner, while certainly adding to the offense with his .284 career average, or a guy who is on base more frequently for the middle of the order?

The answer might not be known for a month or so, as the White Sox try to figure out their 2012 lineup.

"That's exactly right," said White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto of the conundrum. "I have no idea how this is all going to turn out nor do I know what Robin is going to want.

"Just get each hitter prepared well enough to be themselves and then once Robin sees what kind of team he has, he'll make a decision from there. I think that the No. 2 guy goes off the whole scheme of things, if you will.

"I've been on some teams where there was no such thing as the two-hole hitter," Manto said. "When I was with Cleveland [during parts of 1997-99], we banged from the first guy to the ninth guy."

On paper, the White Sox have a potent offense with the likes of Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez in the middle of the order. That potency clearly depends on Dunn, Rios and Gordon Beckham, for that matter, returning to previous levels of excellence.

All three have looked good during Cactus League action, with Dunn in particular appearing to be locked in and seeing the ball well at the plate. The uncertainty surrounding 2012 production from these key players, though, was part of the reason why general manager Ken Williams moved into a modified rebuilding mode.

With a strong starting rotation in place, the White Sox might resemble something akin to the first half of the 2005 World Series championship season. Leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik would get on base and steal second, Tadahito Iguchi would move him over to third and the middle of the order would find some way to bring home Podsednik and give the pitching staff an early lead to protect.

During April in 2005, the White Sox captured nine one-run wins in which they scored fewer than five runs. Simply switch out Podsednik for Alejandro De Aza and apparently Iguchi for Pierzynski. Manto points to Pierzynski's unselfishness as to why he fits at No. 2.

"For this guy, it seems that team comes first," Manto said. "That's what I think will be a big part. You have to have a mentality for that. He definitely fits that mold as well as other guys."

"I pride myself on trying to have professional at-bats," Pierzynski said. "If the job calls for me to bunt or hit and run or take some pitches, then I'm all for it. It's something that's one of those things whatever Robin needs me to do to help the team win, I'll do whatever it takes."

Pierzynski quipped that since Ventura named him as the No. 2 hitter, he hasn't hit in that lineup spot. In Monday's game with the Reds, Beckham hit second and Pierzynski was seventh.

Ventura has used Pierzynski in six games at the two-hole, with Brent Morel hitting there four times, followed by two for Kosuke Fukudome and one each for Beckham, Brent Lillibridge and Minor League infielder Tyler Saladino. Beckham believes that any of the aforementioned could hit behind De Aza, but doesn't feel anyone should overhaul their offensive approach because of their lineup location.

"You can't tell somebody to try to walk more. That's just stupid. It takes away from the player they are sometimes," Beckham said. "So I don't think there's a prototype.

"Obviously, some teams really want somebody that takes a lot of pitches and goes deep in the counts and has a good on-base percentage. I don't think it really matters at the end of the day. Everybody will be a little different."

Beckham pointed out that if De Aza consistently gets on first, it doesn't hurt to have a left-handed hitter behind him with the hole opened up by holding him on at first. Pierzynski pulls the ball and could take advantage of the situation.

Ultimately, the No. 2 hitter could fluctuate depending on who is on the mound and actually could depend on De Aza's consistency at the top. The debate really will live on until the White Sox offense shows its full capabilities.

"Well, I know Dunn looks a lot better. Rios seems like he's in a better spot. Guys are swinging the bat well," said Pierzynski, when asked to analyze the White Sox offense. "Gordon has been working on some stuff. He even looks better. Paul will be Paul. As long as De Aza gets on base, that sets everything up really nice.

"That [two-spot] is kind of a flexible situation depending on the kind of team you have. If you have a bunch of speed guys, like the Cardinals had back in the '80s, with [Vince] Coleman and [Willie] McGee, they would get on base and steal bases. If you don't have that, then you try something different.

"Wherever they want me to hit, I'll hit," Pierzynski said. "They are trying different scenarios right now because you never know what's going to happen."

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.

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