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updated: 10/31/2013 5:35 PM

Why the Sox looked West for new hitting coach

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The Oakland Athletics never seem to have a big payroll or many big-name players.

But some how, some way, the A's always seem to find a way to compete and contend.

Well aware of Oakland's ability to overcome obstacles and win games, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn looked to the West Coast during his search for a new hitting coach. The Sox fired Jeff Manto with two games left in a 99-loss season, their worst since 1970.

"We did some research of certain organizations that we admired their approach to hitting as well as their continuity of instruction from the big-league level all the way through their minor-league system," Hahn said Thursday after Todd Steverson was officially hired. "We researched some individuals with each of those clubs that had played an important role in those hitting programs and had been there for awhile. That's how Todd's name got added to the list."

Hahn said his original working list was "expansive." But after initially interviewing the 41-year-old Steverson with assistant GM Buddy Bell, Hahn brought the candidate to Chicago for another meeting that included White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive VP Kenny Williams and manager Robin Ventura.

"We took a break early on and I looked at Robin and said, 'I already know he's the guy,'" Williams said earlier this week. "And Robin said the same thing. I think you have to give Rick a lot of credit for identifying (Steverson) and getting him in here."

Now that he's on board, Steverson's immediate challenge is straightening out the American League's lowest-scoring offense. He already has an offensive philosophy.

"You want to have an educated plan of attack when you go to the plate," said Steverson, Oakland's roving minor-league hitting instructor the past two years. "Hitters want to put themselves in a good solid position to recognize strikes and have the ability to lay off balls and continue the at-bat. You may have heard about me talking about selective aggressiveness.

"You want to be aggressive with your pitch in the zone, have the ability to recognize the pitch and execute it. Hitting is a confidence, a belief, with the ability to react and execute accordingly. The No. 1 thing is to believe in what you came up there to do. That said, nothing good happens for a hitter outside the strike zone. It's well documented that balls not over the plate aren't very hittable, so our job is to swing at strikes."

In addition to finishing last in the AL in runs scored this season, the White Sox were also last in walks and second from the bottom in on-base percentage, home runs and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

"You want to be able to take a walk, not going up there looking for a walk, but if the pitcher doesn't throw strikes you take your base," Steverson said. "There is no time clock on a game but there are 27 outs and you want to maximize those with a good mindset. The ability to get on base creates more plate appearances, more opportunities to score runs. The name of the game for an offense is to get on base and score runs."

Steverson said he hopes to talk to all of his new hitters before spring training. That includes newcomer Jose Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract on Tuesday.

"Strong man, very strong man," Steverson said of the 6-foot-3, 255-pound first baseman. "One good thing I saw, there were home runs but he drove the ball up the middle and the other way a couple times, which shows he can use the whole field. He's not just a power hitter, all-or-nothing kind of guy."

• The Sox picked up their $4 million option on right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom for 2014.

Last season, the 33-year-old pitcher was 2-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 76 games.

"The veteran element is important, but the more important part is how well he performs and his durability and his fit for our ballpark," general manager Rick Hahn said of Lindstrom. "He obviously excelled in keeping the ball on the ground, and that helps anyone survive in (our) ballpark. He's someone a little bit older in what likely will be a fairly young bullpen, and he'll continue to be a good influence on younger guys as they continue to develop."

• Follow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter @scotgregor, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.

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