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posted: 2/22/2013 7:01 PM

Will Keppinger stand as Sox third baseman?

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  • Chicago White Sox's Jeff Keppinger, left, talks with Brent Morel during a spring training baseball workout Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, in Phoenix.

      Chicago White Sox's Jeff Keppinger, left, talks with Brent Morel during a spring training baseball workout Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, in Phoenix.

  • Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Jeff Keppinger throws out Boston Red Sox's Jose Iglesias during the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

      Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Jeff Keppinger throws out Boston Red Sox's Jose Iglesias during the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 
 

The White Sox made a trade on Friday involving a pair of minor-league players. That doesn't mean it won't have a major impact on the upcoming season.

The Sox acquired third baseman Conor Gillaspie from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitching prospect Jeff Soptic, their third-round pick in the 2011 draft.

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As it stands now, Jeff Keppinger is the White Sox' starting third baseman.

A utility player for much of his eight-year career, Keppinger got a chance to play third on a regular basis with the Tampa Bay Rays last year while Evan Longoria was sidelined for over half the season with a hamstring injury.

Keppinger made the most of the opportunity, posting a .325/.367/.439 hitting line in 115 games. The free agent signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Sox in December as is expected to replace Kevin Youkilis at third base.

According to reports out of spring training, Keppinger is not going to play in Saturday's Cactus League opener due to soreness in his right shoulder.

Keppinger told reporters he didn't do much throwing this winter after fracturing his right fibula early in the off-season.

There is plenty of time to get ready -- the White Sox don't open the regular season until April 1 -- but there's also a chance Keppinger could be moved to second base if Gordon Beckham continues to struggle at the plate.

Brent Morel is another option to play third base despite missing most of last season with a back injury.

Now, you can add Gillaspie to the mix.

"You bring him in and see how he competes, and it opens up options," manager Robin Ventura told reporters in Glendale, Ariz., on Friday. "Even looking at Brent, the way he's playing this year and the way he's moving around, he's still in the hunt. He just competes for a job like everybody else."

Gillaspie is interesting because he hits left-handed. Currently, center fielder Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn are the only lefties in the Sox' regular lineup.

"(Gillaspie) conceivably fits in nicely on the roster, which we'll obviously decide more about toward the end of next month," general manager Rick Hahn told reporters. "But we see him having a solid hit tool, above-average awareness of the strike zone, (he's) solid defensively. He gives us a little versatility in his ability to play third base as well as first. He gives Robin some options, potentially."

Gillaspie, 25, spent most of last season with Class AAA Fresno, batting .281 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI and a .345 on-base percentage in 108 games. In 6 games with the Giants, the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was 3-for-20 with 2 RBI.

San Francisco drafted Gillaspie out of Wichita State in 2008 with the 37th overall pick.

"You listen to what the scouts were saying and he's above-average everything," Ventura said. "Rick is looking to get guys in here that are quality guys and can play. You are always happy that he's looking to do that."

Soptic, 21, was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 27 relief appearances for Class A Kannapolis last season.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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