Conor clutch in White Sox cleanup nod
May 8, 2013 10:45PM
Seattle Mariners v Chicago White Sox
NEW YORK — When Conor Gillaspie saw his name penciled in fourth in the lineup Wednesday at Citi Field, he had one reaction.
“Just laughter, honestly,’’ said Gillaspie, the White Sox rookie third baseman who has four homers in his young career, 409 fewer than regular cleanup guy Adam Dunn. “I was like, ‘Come on.’ I don’t think it changes a whole lot for me. I’m not a home run guy or whatever. It doesn’t matter, we just need hits. Giving a guy [Dunn] a day off, so why not? I’m not hitting that great right now, either.’’
Gillaspie had been in a funk like every other Sox, 1-for-13 going in, but he responded to his fill-in cleanup role by getting on base three times and driving in two runs with a double in the third inning. With Dunn getting a night off in a no-DH National League park, the left-handed Gillaspie was manager Robin Ventura’s choice to hit fourth in a lineup that worked out to the tune of matching a season-high 13 hits in a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets.
Gillaspie was 2-for-4 with a walk and the key double against Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Alejandro De Aza had three hits including a leadoff homer, Alex Rios broke out of a .172 slump over his previous 15 games with three hits including a homer, and Jake Peavy (4-1, 3.03 ERA) pitched 6⅔ innings of three-hit ball as the Sox concluded a 4-4 trip on a high note.
That Gillaspie (.291) has been one of the Sox’ best hitters says a little about his good start — he was a candidate for American League Rookie of the Month honors — and a lot about the Sox’ hitting futility. Ventura placed him fourth mainly because he bats left-handed, and it was a fairly tall order for a rookie who says he’s learning how to deal with the grind of playing every day in the majors.
“I love his makeup,’’ third base coach Joe McEwing said. “He’s here to do a job, works his butt off every single day. He is mentally strong. As difficult as this game is, he’s impressed me a lot staying focused on every pitch.’’
“Not taking at-bats off is what makes hitters good hitters,’’ Gillaspie said. “I’ve had some very good at-bats and some extremely poor at-bats. As the season goes on, I have to do a better job of being in the moment, in every at-bat in every pitch. Thinking about what they’re trying to do to get you out. There’s such a giant learning curve at this level, especially for guys like myself who haven’t played here.
“It’s extremely difficult, hard work. You will get exposed for that. You want to be somebody who is dependable and reliable.’’
Peavy, making his first start since April 26, held the Mets to three hits before leaving with two outs in the seventh inning. He threw 114 pitches after he missed a turn in Texas on Thursday because of back spasms. Peavy allowed one run and surrendered two walks. He struck out six and was helped by two great plays by shortstop Alexei Ramirez and one good catch by center fielder Dewayne Wise.
“The defense behind me was outstanding,’’ Peavy said. “Dewayne Wise going and getting that ball hit deep to center. Alexei, we saw how well he played.
“That’s what we did last year. We made the plays we were supposed to make, made the outstanding plays from time to time and got some timely hitting. Conor’s ball getting in. It was huge.’’