Soft-spoken Harold Baines spoke up near the end of the 2012 season, and his candor could help fortify the White Sox offense this season.

Baines' switch from first-base coach to assistant hitting coach is perceived by some, such as Adam Dunn, as merely a change in title. But even Dunn admits there were times Baines was reluctant to say more out of respect for hitting coach Jeff Manto.

"Harold didn't want to step on anyone's toes," Dunn said Tuesday. "And I felt last year that you'd talk to him, and he probably didn't want to talk to you because he didn't want to step on Jeff's toes because that's the kind of guy Harold is.

"Now he's a hitting guy and what he talks about, and he's very good at it."

The full use of Baines in a hitting role can't hurt the Sox, who are trying to cut down on their franchise-record 1,203 strikeouts and improve their situational hitting, which dipped by 21 points in the final two months of 2012.

Baines, 52, a six-time American League All-Star who had a .289 lifetime batting average with 384 home runs, emphasized that Manto has the final say in suggestions.

But Manto fully supported the idea of adding Baines on a full-time hitting basis after he spent the last seven seasons at first base.

"It's all great," Manto said.

Former Sox hitting coach Greg Walker once said he would send his pupils to listen to Baines about hitting. But Baines appeared to take on a bigger role last season with what he described as a ''partnership'' with Manto.

"We exchanged ideas a lot," Baines said. "I started to like it and I approached the White Sox about it, and they were all for it.''

Baines' knowledge runs deeper than the advantage of having watched the Sox's right-handed hitters from the first-base box.