GLENDALE, Ariz. – Four years ago, Alexei Ramirez moved from second base to shortstop, where he has stabilized a position longer than anyone on the White Sox with the exception of first baseman Paul Konerko.
At the same time, then-manager Ozzie Guillen and bench coach Joey Cora quickly recognized that Wilson Betemit wasn’t suited to serve as a backup to Ramirez.
The importance of the reserve shortstop role – despite Ramirez’s durability – once again has the Sox examining their options.
Depth could be a growing issue for the Sox, as third baseman Jeff Keppinger was scratched from Sunday’s lineup against the Mariners because of right shoulder irritation. Keppinger is available to serve as a designated hitter Monday but won’t return to the field until Wednesday at the earliest.
“We’re not concerned about his playing time down here,” manager Robin Ventura said after the Sox lost 7-3 to the Reds at Camelback Ranch and beat the Mariners 11-7 in Peoria. “[Sunday] you just get that chance because of the split-squad [games], you can get everyone in there and play.”
Meanwhile, sources within and outside the organization confirmed the Sox still are scouring the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues in search of a solid backup to Ramirez, who has played at least 148 games at shortstop in each of the last four seasons.
Illustrating the Sox’s search was trying out Brent Morel at short last week. He hadn’t played the position since 2010 at Triple-A Charlotte and was the Sox’s opening-day third baseman each of the last two seasons. Morel and left-handed hitter Conor Gillaspie, who is batting .364, are competing for time behind Keppinger.
The other in-house candidates to spell Ramirez include Rule 5 pick Angel Sanchez, Steve Tolleson and Carlos Sanchez.
Carrying Carlos Sanchez, 20, as a backup could stunt his development, as he has played only 11 games at Triple A.
Paul Janish, who played 338 games at short during his 5 years with the Reds and Braves, could be available once he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Others who could be available are Emmanuel Burriss of the Reds, Alfredo Amezaga of the Dodgers, Donnie Murphy of the Brewers and Cody Ransom of the Padres.