It was just one at-bat during the first 2011 Cactus League game for the White Sox on Monday. But the Jordan Danks offseason hitting project appears to be moving in the right direction.
“It’s a work in progress for Jordan,” White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said before Danks doubled off Dodgers southpaw Ron Mahay as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning to score Adam Dunn in Monday’s 6-5 setback. “Any time you make major changes to a young kid, we let him do it a certain way for a long time, and he felt like he needed to make some changes.
“We like some things we see. We’ll see how much they help at game speed.”
Danks, 24, remains possibly the top defensive outfielder in the organization. But the left-handed hitter’s offense slipped a little bit with Triple-A Charlotte last season, as the younger brother of starting pitcher John Danks fell to a .245 average with 151 strikeouts.
As an up-and-coming player and a planned future starter for the White Sox, Jordan Danks became an organization project as far back as late September, when Danks went with Walker and some big league players to a private hitting coach friend of Walker’s in California to have his swing analyzed. Danks made two more trips there during the offseason.
Those changes were implemented in Monday’s two at-bats, with Danks changing his hand position in an attempt to cut down his swing and get to the pitch quicker. Even with Danks’ great defense factored in, general manager Ken Williams made it clear Danks would be better served playing every day at Charlotte as opposed to getting a few Major League at-bats as a defensive replacement.
That roster long shot didn’t stop Danks from working hard to improve his game on offense.
“I put more emphasis on hitting than I did, as opposed to more of a focus on weightlifting and getting bigger,” said Danks, who also worked at the University of Texas with some past Longhorns players during the offseason. “I really did both but put more emphasis on hitting. I’m coming to camp more confident.
“They told me my defense is there and I’m ready to play. But I just have to get the hitting aspect down. I’m trying to cut down my strikeouts and be more consistent.”