CHICAGO — Gordon Beckham tried to sleep and 20 minutes after he shut off the TV, he knew there was no way it was going to happen. He was still revved up, his emotions running too high after getting the news he waited all his life to hear.
The former University of Georgia star was going to the major leagues to join the White Sox. He got the word after Wednesday night’s game with Triple-A Charlotte and, after a sleepless night, he caught a 7:15 a.m. flight to Chicago before landing in the starting lineup Thursday afternoon against Oakland.
Beckham’s bat didn’t help the slumping White Sox. Batting eighth and playing third base, he went 0 for 3 in his debut with a strikeout in his final at-bat as Chicago was shut out for the eighth time this season, losing 7-0 to the Athletics.
“I got quite a few texts. I wish they came after a win,” Beckham said. “I felt pretty calm up there, as calm as could be. I swung at a couple of bad pitches. I think that came from the anxiety of having my first at-bat in the big leagues.”
After his team’s third straight loss, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen wasn’t in a mood to assess Beckham’s first game.
“He struck out, what am I going to say? He was good? That kid’s going to be all right,” Guillen said. “He’s just another player. He had a bad day, just like everyone else.”
But Beckham also had an experience he’ll never forget when Charlotte manager Chris Chambliss gave him the message Wednesday night that he was on his way to Chicago.
“It’s one of those things where you think about it a lot, but you don’t really understand what it feels like until you get called up, until they sit you down and say, ‘You’re going to the big leagues.’ It was one of those feelings I will never forget, for sure,” Beckham said.
Beckham made the majors 364 days after he was drafted No. 8 overall by Chicago last summer. At 22, he is the fastest White Sox first-rounder to reach the majors since pitcher Alex Fernandez made it in 58 days in 1990. Beckham played in only 59 minor league games.
A shortstop during his standout college career at Georgia, where he was the SEC player of the year in 2008 and led the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish at the College World Series, Beckham will mostly play third base with the White Sox. He’ll also fill in at shortstop and second.
Josh Fields, who was supposed to replace Joe Crede at third, has been inconsistent. Fields, batting .239 with two homers and 55 strikeouts, will be a backup and could also play some first base.
Beckham began the season at Double-A Birmingham and was promoted to Charlotte on May 28. Combined in the two stops, he batted .326 with four homers, 23 doubles and 25 RBIs in 45 games.
Guillen, who said earlier this season that if the White Sox had to call up Beckham it would show they were in trouble, promised to get his newest infielder plenty of playing time.
“We can use him at a lot of different positions,” Guillen said. “I’m going to give this kid a great shot to play. Give me good at-bats.”
During his minor league stint this season, Beckham appeared in 32 games at shortstop, eight at third base and four at second. He also played 14 games — 13 at shortstop — for Class-A Kannapolis last summer after signing in August.
Alexei Ramirez, a star last season as a rookie with the White Sox, has been moved from second to shortstop this season, so that spot is not open.
“If you can play short, you can play the other positions on the field,” Beckham said. “I feel comfortable and I’m ready.”
General manager Ken Williams said he expects Beckham to stay, now that’s he arrived.
“We’re certainly not going into it with the idea that we’re going to send him down,” Williams said. “In fact I have it in my mind, even if he does struggle initially, sort of along the lines of Robin Ventura and his struggles when he came up — if you believe in the talent, you believe in the talent.”
Beckham is no stranger to the White Sox clubhouse. He was invited to spring training, where he had a locker next to veteran catcher A.J Pierzynski, not shy about sharing his opinion, playing a joke or lending advice.
Beckham made diving attempts for a couple of balls that were unreachable Thursday and also bumped into pitcher Mark Buehrle on a popup at the mound.
“Buehrle’s making fun of me that I can’t get to any of the balls I’m diving for, A.J.’s throwing curveballs to me after strikeouts,” Beckham said. “It was kind of a whirlwind day.”