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MLB: Sox's Keppinger battling persistent shoulder pain

Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 11:47 p.m. CDT
(Jose M. Osorio)
Jeff Keppinger (7) turns a double play during a game last season. Keppinger has been hindered by a shoulder injury in spring training, leaving his future with the team in doubt.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jeff Keppinger had one word Wednesday for how he has been feeling during White Sox spring training.

“Tight,” he said before a morning workout at Camelback Ranch.

Three weeks into spring training, Keppinger doesn’t know when his shoulder will feel good enough to enter the Sox’s competition at third base.

He said he has felt pain nearly every time he has tried to throw since he had surgery to repair fraying in his rotator cuff and labrum in September.

Because of the limitations that pain brings, Sox manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday it is becoming increasingly more difficult to believe the player under contract for 2 more years and $8.5 million will start the season with the team rather than on the disabled list.

“Even when I started in the offseason, it has been hurting, and I just thought it was something I needed to work through,” Keppinger said. “I just kept going through it and going through it, and it never got better.

“… It’s very frustrating. I thought I had the surgery last year to get it fixed, and here I am dealing with the same thing. I don’t know.”

An MRI on Keppinger’s shoulder showed no structural damage, so he is trying to use proper stretching and rest to combat the pain, which he said is caused by pinching due to poor alignment in his shoulder. He is refraining from throwing until at least next week.

The pain only comes with an overhand motion, so he is able to take ground balls in workouts. But he said he is limited from many drills because his inability to throw is a disruption to the team. He said he also is trying to put in overtime in the weight and training rooms.

“The strength is there. I’ve been rehabbing since Day 1 of my surgery,” Keppinger said. “It’s just the loosening up part of it and stretching it back out is not coming as fast as I would like it to. Maybe I worked it before I got it stretched out, and it should have been the opposite way.”

Keppinger has played in six games as the designated hitter this spring. He wasn’t sure at the end of last season if his shoulder affected his hitting, and it’s the same this spring, though he said he doesn’t feel any pain with that motion. He was 2-for-16 with three RBIs through Tuesday before receiving the day off Wednesday.

The Sox, however, have no need for an extra designated hitter while carrying Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn as a platoon at the position. Ventura said it will become more difficult to find Keppinger at-bats as the Sox go deeper into spring training, and they may have to settle for slotting him into minor league or B games.

“It’s looking more like it’s tougher to [start with him on the team] if he can’t throw,” Ventura said. “We have a lot of guys basically that can do that same thing. You know, it’s a somewhat short [time] to be able to do that, as of right now, unless he makes a miraculous comeback.”

If needed, the Sox have several options to replace him, including newcomer Matt Davidson and Conor Gillaspie, who Ventura said has looked sharper in his at-bats and more confident overall this year.

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