GLENDALE, Ariz. — Asked if spring training has been going well, White Sox outfielder and 2008 seventh-round pick Jordan Danks on Wednesday smiled and nodded his head.
Yes, it’s been pretty nice. Well, sort of.
“I’ve been getting called ‘John’ a lot,” Danks said, referring of course to his brother, a lefthander on the big league staff. “People will see ‘Danks’ on the back of my jersey and assume I’m John. Then they come up to me and I have to tell them.
“Then,” Danks added, “they don’t seem to be so interested anymore.”
Danks should get plenty of autograph requests later this season, however, if he consistently hits the way he did at the tail end of last season, which included a surprise trip to the Arizona Fall League.
Now earmarked for high Class A Winston-Salem, the former Texas Longhorns outfielder is confident that the power potential that some scouts questioned as he entered pro ball will manifest itself. The key, he said, is squaring up pitches intended to run away from his bat.
“I’m feeling pretty confident right now,” said Danks, who signed for an above-slot bonus of $520,000. “I can hit the inside pitch really well, but I need to work on the outside pitch and let it get a little deeper. And instead of popping it up I need to push the distance out there.”
Danks hit only 13 home runs in three seasons at Texas, but he demonstrated his power late last season with three home runs, including a monster shot in his second game in the Arizona Fall League—a shot that came on a 4-for-4 day.
Like first-round pick Gordon Beckham, he joined low Class A Kannapolis in late August and got in 40 at-bats, hitting .310/.400/.625 with four doubles. But he also struck out 14 times and drew just four walks.
Ordered to the AFL when White Sox outfielder Stefan Gattrell suffered a shoulder injury, he then hit .302/.406/.415 with three doubles and seven RBIs in 53 at-bats. He struck out 20 times but also drew 10 walks.
Still, there is a long way to go. But Danks is hanging his hat somewhat on his only start in White Sox camp, when he went 2-for-4, including a home run, against the Athletics.
“I probably need to cut down on the strikeouts,” Danks acknowledged. “But I feel pretty confident. I didn’t hit a lot of home runs in college, but I feel that will take care of itself. If I cut down the strikeouts and put the ball in play, more good things will happen.”
VICIEDO To Double-A
Not to reveal too much for a story slated later next week but Cuban sensation Dayan Viciedo, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on March 18, is working out with the Double-A Birmingham group and likely will open the season there, according to a White Sox source.
“He’s got tremendous tools,” said Charlotte manager Chris Chambliss, who watched Viciedo in big league camp and for a week while he remained in the Triple-A group. “He’s got a real quick bat and power and a good at third.”
Viciedo, who turned 19 on March 10, signed a four-year major league contract with a $4 million bonus and a $10 million total guarantee. But the White Sox prefer Josh Fields, their 2004 first-round pick, hold down third base coming out of camp while Viciedo learns in the minors.
Viciedo hit .286/.231/.286 (6-for-26) with two home runs and a double. The White Sox have not yet had him play the outfield.
Aaron Poreda, the lefthander that the White Sox safeguarded in trade talks last summer, says he is heading back to Birmingham and has no qualms about it.
Armed with a dominating sinker, Poreda struck out 72 and issued 22 walks in 88 innings against Southern League batters last year, when he was 3-4, 2.98 in Birmingham. That came after he plowed through Winston-Salem with 46 strikeouts and 18 walks in 73 innings. He went on to dominate in the Arizona Fall League as well.
“I think they want me in a comfortable atmosphere and J.R. (Perdew) is one of the best pitching coaches in the organization,” Poreda said. “We really have good communication, so it’s going to be good to work with him again.”
On his to-do list is working on a changeup, even more so than his slider.
“It’s going to be a big pitch for me this season,” Poreda said. “I just have to recognize on every pitch I throw that it needs to look like a fastball (coming out his hand) so it’s deceptive.”