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updated: 3/22/2013 10:28 PM

New lineup goal for Sox: more runs

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  • The White Sox are hoping that newcomer Jeff Keppinger, right, is able to set the table as the No. 2 hitter and provide more RBI opportunities for Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.

      The White Sox are hoping that newcomer Jeff Keppinger, right, is able to set the table as the No. 2 hitter and provide more RBI opportunities for Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.
    Associated Press

  • Newcomer Jeff Keppinger is having a torrid spring training at the plate.

      Newcomer Jeff Keppinger is having a torrid spring training at the plate.
    Associated Press

 
 

PHOENIX -- Home runs are a good thing, especially at an enticing hitter's park like U.S. Cellular Field.

But productive major-league offenses find other ways to score runs, and that's a big goal for the White Sox as Opening Day approaches.

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Last season, only the Yankees and Orioles relied more on homers to put runs on the scoreboard. And of the Sox' 211 home runs, 113 were solo shots.

Something needs to change, and it already has.

First, free-agent Jeff Keppinger was brought in to play third base. More important, he's just the type of hitter the White Sox need in the lineup.

Keppinger's not likely to have many stretches of 6 hits and 4 walks in 11 plate appearances, like he's done over his last three games.

And he's not going to hit .516 in the regular season like he is in the Cactus League.

Keppinger, who batted .325 for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, is going to make opposing pitchers work and he's going to put the ball in play out of the No. 2 hole.

"Keppinger the last couple days, just being able to go the other way, you see guys like him and it gets contagious seeing the guy come through hitting to right (field)," Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Other guys emulate that, so it's good to see."

There's going to be another lineup change, and Ventura laid out the details before Friday night's exhibition game against the A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Adam Dunn is no longer going to bat third, like he's done for much of the past two seasons.

Dunn is going to be in the cleanup spot most of the time, with Alex Rios moving up from fifth to third.

Paul Konerko, the White Sox' usual cleanup hitter, is going to hit fifth most of the time.

"I think the way it sits right now, it probably lines up that with Paul batting fifth and Rios third," Ventura said. "We will mix and match and change it up. For right now, that's probably where we'll start."

The move makes sense -- for several reasons.

Rios is one of the Sox' fastest runners, and he has gap power in addition to longball capability.

If the right fielder hits the way he did last season (.304, 37 doubles, 8 triples, 25 home runs, 91 RBI), he should score more than 100 runs for the first time since 2007.

Dunn led the American League with 105 walks last season, but he is more of a base clogger. He also led the majors with 222 strikeouts.

With Rios batting behind him last season, Konerko only drove in 75 runs, his lowest total since 2008. The White Sox' captain was limited to a career-low 122 games in '08 because of hand, knee and oblique injuries.

With Alejandro De Aza entrenched in the leadoff spot and Keppinger a likely upgrade batting second, Rios, Dunn and Konerko should have many more RBI opportunities.

Ventura did say the right-handed hitting Konerko and left-handed Dunn are likely to swap spots against left-handed starting pitchers.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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