CHICAGO – The past week is one White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo wants to forget.
Repeated on-field miscues are only part of a season that has been largely forgettable for Viciedo. In what was supposed to be a standout season for Viciedo, coming off a breakout 2012 campaign, which featured him hitting .255 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs in 147 games, has instead turned nightmarish.
“You’re trying to help him on his way, but it is tough,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s very tough for a young guy to go through struggles, similar to what Gordon (Beckham) had last year. It’s not easy. In the end, when you make it through, you’re a tougher player and better player the rest of your career for having gone through it.”
Viciedo, 24, owned a .227 average entering Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Indians with only five home runs and 22 RBIs in 56 games. Viciedo is expected to be the Sox’s No. 3 or 4 hitter of the future, potentially as soon as next season. His potential was on full display last season. But his lack of patience at the plate and the propensity to swing for the fences far too often is preventing Viciedo from taking the next step in his development.
“It’s one of the hardest moments I’ve had to go through,” Viciedo said through a translator. “I’ve hit this slump. I can’t think of any better way to get out of it than to just work through it.”
Nothing frustrates Ventura more than mental mistakes, and Viciedo found himself in the doghouse after another boneheaded play. During Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader, a 19-10 loss to the Indians, Viciedo easily was thrown out heading home to end the eighth inning after ignoring third base coach Joe McEwing’s stop sign. To cap it off, Viciedo was running half-heartedly when trying to score.
Viciedo explained Saturday that he didn’t anticipate Cleveland throwing home on the play, thus easing up after rounding third. Ventura immediately removed Viciedo from the game after the gaffe.
“It’s just one of those (plays where) you run hard,” Ventura said. “If it’s in play, you run as hard as you can. There are very few times in the game where not running hard – if you walk, I don’t expect you to sprint down there – but other than that, if it’s in play, you gotta give [McEwing] a chance to send you.”
The wakeup immediately paid off in Viciedo’s return to left field. He aggressively charged in on a fly ball hit by Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera, the second batter of Saturday’s game, which was traveling toward the left-field line. Viciedo timed it perfectly to make a diving catch. Viciedo added another diving catch to end the third, robbing Michael Bourn of a hit.
“It’s absolutely difficult,” Viciedo said. “You don’t want to call it depressing, but it’s a hard time. We have to keep working. We have to keep plugging away. We have to answer for what we’re doing out there.”
Ventura didn’t rule out sending Viciedo to the minors so he can get back on track, but that option is a long shot at this point. However, if the Sox have any hope of turning around their season, Viciedo is one of the first on the team who must start contributing. Otherwise, Ventura and the Sox might have to legitimately consider demoting him in attempt to turn around a career that is heading in the wrong direction.
“You see the potential for him to be able to make it through and be a very good player,” Ventura said. “Right now, I don’t necessarily see that. But any time you’re dealing with what [Viciedo’s] going through, it’s there for pretty much anybody.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.