CHICAGO — Jeff Keppinger isn’t sure where he’ll play with the White Sox. He is certain Chicago is the place for him, though.
The White Sox announced a three-year, $12 million contract with Keppinger on Monday after reaching an agreement last week, adding a versatile infielder who could fill a hole at third base.
“I really like that city,” the former Georgia player said on a conference call. “I thought it would be a good fit for me.”
Keppinger is set to earn $3.5 million next season, $4 million in 2014 and $4.5 million in 2015 after hitting a career-high .325 in 115 games with Tampa Bay last season. He made 41 starts at third base, 23 at second, 21 at first and 19 as the designated hitter. The White Sox have an opening at third and there’s a good chance he’ll wind up there even though he never discussed that with them. Kevin Youkilis finished last season at the position for Chicago and is now a free agent.
“I haven’t talked to anybody about where I’m going to play,” Keppinger said. “To me, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve played a lot of different positions throughout my career, and I feel comfortable at all of them. Wherever they want me to play, I’m good with it.”
Just as important, his right leg is improving. Keppinger broke his fibula when he tripped down some stairs at home early in the offseason, terrible timing for a player on the market. He said he’ll be out of his walking boot on Tuesday and expects to be healed by the start of spring training.
“I thought I just rolled my ankle and sprained it,” he said. “I’m wearing flip-flops coming down the stairs and slipped. I tried to catch myself and I just didn’t land right.”
Keppinger is a career .288 hitter over eight seasons with the New York Mets, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
“His versatility gives (manager Robin Ventura) some options to move him around the infield, which was part of the appeal for us,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Obviously, if we were to start the season today — which we obviously don’t — I would expect him to be the Opening Day third baseman, but there’s still a fair amount of the offseason to go.”
He said the White Sox are still in contact with other teams and free agents. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski remains unsigned, too, but Hahn had no update on that situation.
“We’re not going to give any update on it,” he said. “I think we’re better served by not providing conversation about conversations, blow-by-blow updates, on how the talks are going other than saying we’re in regular contact, and the dialog’s been very open and honest from our perspective about expectations and fit. We expect it to continue in that vein until there’s some resolution.”