White Sox hitting on all cylinders
White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo turned his offensive production completely around from April to May.
All of the prognosticators who pegged the White Sox to finish below .500 this season — including yours truly — were feeling pretty good about themselves at the end of April.
At 11-11, the Sox weren't an awful team. On the other hand, they were nothing special.
One month into the season, the White Sox shaped up as an offensively challenged team destined to waste a lot of good pitching and finish well off the pace in the AL Central.
That still might happen.
But a merry, merry month of May suggests otherwise.
"I think we had confidence that we could do anything we wanted to do," second baseman Gordon Beckham said Sunday after the Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We've got a lot of talent; we've got good pitching. It was all based on if we just did it or not."
The Sox' offense was OK in April, thanks to Paul Konerko being Paul Konerko. A.J. Pierzynski being A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Dunn and Alex Rios showing early signs there would be no repeat of 2011.
But in May it really started to turn.
The White Sox' veteran foursome kept on swinging, with Konerko inching his average up to .399 Sunday and Dunn hitting big home runs like he did for a decade in the National League.
At the same time, Dayan Viciedo started showing why former hitting coach Greg Walker likened him to a raw Miguel Cabrera when the Sox called him up from Class AAA Charlotte in September 2010.
Viciedo had a monster month of May, and the 23-year-old left fielder is a big reason why the White Sox (29-22) are baseball's hottest team heading into Friday night's home game against the Seattle Mariners.
Not only are the Sox running first in the AL Central, they have won eight straight and are averaging 8 runs a game during the surge.
Over his last seven games, Viciedo is a staggering 16-for-29 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI.
Batting .206 at the end of April, Viciedo takes a .291 average into June.
During the first month, Viciedo had trouble recognizing pitches and his swing was too long. The former third baseman/first baseman/right fielder also was adjusting to yet another new position.
In May, everything quickly came together for Viciedo.
"It's confidence of him being comfortable where he's at, what he's doing, seeing pitchers, understanding what pitchers are doing to him," manager Robin Ventura said.
"He has a plan when he goes to the plate, and he knows that. You can see it in batting practice and everything else. He's very aware and confident of what he's doing, what he's capable of."
Viciedo is not the only White Sox hitter who made some positive adjustments in May.
Beckham still is not where he wants to be — or should be — but the No. 2 hitter has shown improvements across the board.
Leadoff man Alejandro De Aza hit 65 points higher in May than April, setting the table for the big boys behind him.
Even Alexei Ramirez got it going following another slow start to the season. Maybe Ramirez got some tips from Viciedo, a fellow Cuban.
"There are guys that are struggling, but by the same token everybody's contributing in their own form, so it's great," Viciedo said through a translator.
"It's a great feeling because everyone on the team is fighting. We're fundamentally sound; guys are healthy. We're all coming together and we fight whoever we play against."
Orlando Hudson was added to the May 22 after third baseman Brent Morel (back) landed on the disabled list. The veteran Hudson played second base for 11 years in the majors, but he has been playing third base at a very high level since stepping into the lineup.
Hudson is batting only .185 in nine games with the Sox, but he has drawn 5 walks and has fit in as the No. 9 hitter. Released by the San Diego Padres on May 17, Hudson literally has gone from worst to first. He couldn't be happier.
"I'm pumped up," Hudson said. "We're fighting for something. We've got a great chance to win the division. We've got a chance to do a lot of great things."
If the White Sox pick up in June where they left off in May, they really are going to be a team to fear.
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