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WSI News - News Watch

Sox' lineup: Seeing is believing

March 18, 2002

By Doug Padilla, Chicago Sun-Times

TUCSON, Ariz.--For Royce Clayton, the view from the bottom has never looked so sweet.

The White Sox' No. 9 hitter likes what he sees in the team's lineup, yet remains cautious. With so much speed and power ahead of him, he knows there is a perception the Sox will be a run-producing machine.

Without the little things, though, Clayton knows it could all be for naught.

"I remember one situation last year, and [manager Jerry Manuel] made a point of it and it stuck in my mind," Clayton said. "[The Mariners'] Brett Boone is leading the league in RBI and he came up with a man on second base. In that situation, you could tell he was giving himself up just to move the guy over.

"Those are the things we'll have to do as a ballclub to be successful, up and down the lineup. Just don't rely on yourself. Know that the guy behind you can get the job done."

The strategy might be easiest for Clayton to follow because Manuel already has said he isn't putting pressure on his slick-fielding shortstop to supply much offense.

"I know that Jerry knows what I can do,'' Clayton said. "I expect a lot out of myself. I think he's just emphasizing the fact that we really need me to play good defense for this ballclub. Offensively, I know I'll be able to be productive."

Nobody is questioning Clayton's defense.

"With Royce, he has a great chance of winning a Gold Glove every year he goes out there,'' first baseman Paul Konerko said. "He's just a naturally gifted shortstop. He's that good."

One thing Clayton was successful at doing last season was not letting his slow start at the plate affect his defense.

Clayton's average dipped to .099 on May 23, but his glove remained steady. He finished with seven errors and a .988 fielding percentage, a record for a Sox shortstop.

Asked about his slow start earlier this spring training, Clayton refused to dwell on the past. To his credit, he also said his offensive rebound (he batted a team-best .323 after the All-Star break) and his solid fielding also are things of the past.

"I'm just going to get my mind set to go and get some key hits for us down at the bottom of the lineup," Clayton said about his spring strategy. "The guys ahead of us will get on base so [No. 8 hitter Sandy Alomar] and I are going to have opportunities and we just want to be as consistent as possible in those situations to be sure we get those extra runs when we need them."

Manuel is excited that at the ends of his lineup he has a table-setter in leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton and Clayton, who can clean things up at the bottom.

"That is big for us if we can go one through nine with a pretty good offense," Manuel said. "Lofton and Royce, when they are producing, it will give us a lot of ways to score runs."

Clayton thinks that variety will be key for the Sox.

"There are a lot of different things we can do," he said. "We don't necessarily have to depend on home runs. We can steal some bases. Guys will be bunting at the top of the lineup. Doing a lot of things can put a lot on the defense's mind. I know as a defensive player, that teams capable of doing a lot of different things make them tough to defend."

Clayton can recall one team in particular.

"The team that sticks out in my mind is Cleveland when they had Roberto Alomar, [Omar] Vizquel and [Lofton]. Up and down the lineup, guys could handle the bat and do different things. I think our team is very similar to that and we can put up some big numbers."

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