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Rick Renteria talks to Tim Anderson before the White Sox’ spring training game against the Cubs Monday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

White Sox emphasizing new 2-strike approach

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SHARE White Sox emphasizing new 2-strike approach

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Choking up with two strikes used to be textbook. Not so much anymore.

Why give up a third of an at-bat? Take the same aggressive swing with two strikes, and the results of a full, normal hack will outweigh choking up and emphasizing contact — which might mean settling for a soft ground ball — over time.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria is putting an emphasis on two-strike contact this spring. Hitting coach Todd Steverson said hitters are buying in.

‘‘Take a look,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘It’s not giving up when you [choke up]. It’s making a little adjustment and saying, ‘If I have one pitch in the strike zone, I want to put it in play, put it in play hard.’ ’’

It’s not to say a hitter can’t make a pitcher pay for a two-strike mistake when he shortens up.

‘‘It’s not saying, ‘I can’t hit it out of the ballpark or into the gap,’ ’’ Steverson said. ‘‘It’s saying, ‘I am hell-bent on making sure they make a play on me some sort of way.’ ’’

The Sox ranked eighth among 15 teams in the American League in strikeouts last season and were 11th in runs. The Athletics struck out less than any team but the Angels but were last in runs, so maybe there isn’t a direct correlation.

Factors besides contact come into play, of course. Emphasizing putting the ball in play, though, should translate into better run production, Renteria and Steverson said.

‘‘Strikeouts happen, but we don’t want them happening without a fight,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘You’re seeing a lot of our guys choking

up now with two strikes because I want some barrel control. We need to scratch, claw and bite to score runs.’’

Shortstop Tim Anderson is choking up and moving up to the front of the batter’s box, and second baseman Yolmer Sanchez said he’s choking up with two strikes.

Anderson hit an opposite-field home run on an 0-2 pitch Thursday from the Giants’ Cory Gearrin.

‘‘Just trying to catch [the ball] before it breaks,’’ Anderson said before the game. ‘‘It’s been very helpful. I’ve had a couple of two-strike hits [this spring], one a double to right-center on a slider.

‘‘I have confidence no pitcher can throw that heater by me, and it helps me see that breaking ball a little better. I’m going to catch it before it breaks.’’

Sanchez experimented with choking up last season and liked it.

‘‘My game isn’t hitting homers, so it helped me make contact,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s good for the little guys like me; I don’t know about the big guys. With two strikes, put it in play. Especially with a runner on base, you don’t want to strike out.’’

The Sox were 13th in the AL in homers last season, and outfielder Adam Eaton, who hit 14, is gone. He was the Sox’ third-leading home-run hitter.

‘‘We can’t just wait on a three-run homer,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘We’re not that squad. We have to fight to the end, all 27 outs.’’

All-time home-run leader Barry Bonds choked up. Reds star Joey Votto does, too.

‘‘A lot of guys do,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘They need to have that in their arsenal. With so many guys throwing 95 to 100 [mph] nowadays, it ain’t that easy getting that barrel through there consistently. I need to control it.’’

Renteria, who doesn’t buy into the notion that strikeouts aren’t that big a deal, said the importance of two-strike hitting is underrated. He’s stressting it to Sox hitters, and it seems to be hitting home.

‘‘The guys are choking up a little bit, trying to handle the bat,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘Battling and forcing the pitcher to get uncomfortable — they kind of hate that you’re spoiling pitches — makes them throw more pitches.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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