Danks nearly untouchable in White Sox win

Danks nearly untouchable in White Sox win

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Posted 5:31 p.m. Updated 6:43 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Never mind that he faced a lineup of Los Angeles Dodgers N-teamers, John Danks will take a one-hit effort any day of the week.

Danks threw the White Soxs longest outing of the Cactus League season, scattering one hit and three walks over five innings and pacing the White Sox to a 6-1 win at Camelback Ranch on Sunday.

I feel good. I feel like I can throw most of my pitches, Danks said. There were a couple of instances where I got lucky, but for the most part I felt good. I was able to throw the ball in to righties a lot better than I have all camp.

He threw the ball better, manager Ozzie Guillen said. We try to eliminate the walks during spring training. Thats the goal right now. He threw pretty good and is pitching pretty well.

Danks punctuated his good feeling with two Ks and plenty of splintered lumber, dropping his spring ERA to a lean 1.74.

How well I pitched showed with all the broken bats, Danks said, adding that he didnt even see the first barrel that came flying at him to end the first inning. There were like two or three broken bats. All in all, I felt good. Everything is progressing right on track. Thats where I need to be.

Milledge making the team?

Carlos Quentin jumped on Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda early, clocking a first-pitch deep to left for his first homer of the spring. In the fourth, the hot-and-cold White Sox offense lit up L.A., courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Lastings Milledge, chased by a two-run homer from an unlikely source, second baseman Omar Vizquel. The White Sox pushed their advantage to five after Juan Pierre doubled in Brent Morel in the seventh.

Will Ohman found his spring streak of perfection snapped by allowing a run-scoring double to Justin Sellers in the Dodgers half of the inning. In the eighth, a Sellers throwing error was responsible for the final White Sox run of the day, as a failed double-play scored Eduardo Escobar.

The biggest hitters on the day were the Chisox most struggling offensively this spring: Quentin, Paul Konerko, and Morel all entered action hitting less than .200 and were the only Chicago hitters to strike two safeties on the day.

Brawny Danks

As his hair is growing back (after Mark Buehrle shaved it early in camp in honor of the St. Baldricks childrens cancer-fighting effort), Danks is letting his face grow long, sporting a beard that may not last too much longer.

Moms coming in town on the 24th, so well see what happens then, Danks said. It will be cold in Cleveland Ive got to have a little face coverage for April 1.

Milledge lasting

Fourth outfielder candidate Milledge continued to state his case for the 25th spot on the roster, playing a flawless center field and going 1-3 with an RBI.

Im happy with the way Milledge is playing right now, Guillen said. Hes playing very good. Catching the ball is very important.

Guillen wasnt worried about Milledge getting picked off of first after leading off the ninth inning with a single.

I want players to create some confidence in spring training to steal bases.

Vote of confidence: Morel

Guillen was pleased to see Morel clock a couple hits (raising his OPS on the spring to .566) and make several sweet plays at third.

Hes fine, he said. As a kid, you are going to be kind of anxious. I wont say he was panicking, but he tried to overdo stuff to impress people. We talked to him about backing up, make sure you are yourself. He swung the bat better today.

Vote of confidence: Flowers

Guillen sees a world of difference in catcher Tyler Flowers this spring compared to prior camps.

Out of everyone, Flowers is the one Im very happy about, Guillen said. That kid came to spring training this year as a different guy. He swings the bat better and more comfortably. Behind the plate, hes outstanding."

Its safe to say that if the White Sox knew theyd see this sort of change in the 25-year-old slugger, hed be breaking camp with the big club instead of seeing his ticket again punched back to Charlotte.

Im pretty excited and happy for this kid, from one spring training to another, Guillen said. Ive talked to everybody about it. Hopefully, no matter where he goes, hell keep up playing this way so people can count on him for the future.

B-Game roundup

The White Sox won their B-Game against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday morning in come-from-behind fashion, 11-8. The game, which stretched more than three hours, was studied closely by the entire White Sox coaching staff: We told players, B-Games count, because were watching, Guillen emphasized. (That he mimed falling asleep during the game was merely for comedic effect.)

On the bump, Cleveland roughed up just two of the White Sox hurlers, Kyle Cofield (two innings, six hits, six runs, five earned runs, and a long triple-home run-home run in back-to-back-to-back fashion) and Miguel Socolovich (one inning, three hits, two earned runs).

Brandon Hynick started the game and acquitted himself well, pitching around three walks in two innings of work. Shane Lindsay stayed hot, throwing two innings with a walk and two strikeouts (pushing his total spring scoreless streak to five innings). Nate Jones finished off the Wahoos, twirling two scoreless innings and allowing a hit and a walk against two strikeouts).

At bat, two likely Charlotte Knights stars let a power surge for the Chisox. Stefan Gartrell had two homers, five RBI, and three runs scored on the day, reaching base three times total. Jordan Danks hit a grand slam as part of a 2-5 day and his brother, John, expressed his pleasure during the afternoon game, saying, Yeah, hes having a great camp. Hes progressing and getting closer to where people thought he would be at this point. Im thrilled to death with how hed doing.

Escobar went 2-5 with two doubles then, as last B-Game, subbed into the spring training game proper, vs. the Dodgers. Alejandro De Aza and Brent Lillibridge both went 3-5 in the game.
Scenes from a B-Game

After Gartrell's first home run, a three-run shot, the Wahoos walked off the field (Clevelands hurler hit his pitch count). When I asked him why he had to ruin a perfectly nice game, Gartrell trotted back out to right field, laughing and yelling, Guess we automatically win! Guess the games over!

Jordan Danks had been taunting Gartrell for being too slow to get to a foul fly down the right-field line but when Gartrell made the next one, a nice grab right at the foul wall, Danks changed his tune and shouted, web gem!

White Sox first base coach Harold Baines, looking on from the sidelines and chiding the Wahoos batboy, whose extreme hustle caused his mullet to fly freely in the wind.

Jim Gallagher was chasing hard after a foul pop, but missed the carom after it hit off a light pole in foul territory and headed back to the field: That scared the ( out of me!

Box Score

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Adam Engel stepped into the batter’s box for his first major league at-bat in May armed with a batting stance that, to say the least, wasn’t conventional. 

Engel’s hands were pushed far away from his body and were level with his head. His bat pointed straight up in the air, and his right (back) arm was raised above his left (front) one. On first glance, you had to wonder — how can that be comfortable? 

“That’s something that I probably wouldn’t coach a little kid to do,” Engel said. 

But there was a well-thought-out method to Engel’s stance. He used the word “tension” in describing what he was trying to avoid by thrusting his hands high and away from his body. And as White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson noted, nobody does anything well when they’re tight. 

“The closer I get my hands to my body, I tend to grab the bat a little harder, which causes a chain reaction I don’t want,” Engel said. “As long as my hands get to where I want them before I start swinging, that’s the goal.”

Since arriving in the majors two months ago, though, Engel has lowered his hands and dropped his back elbow. Here’s the difference in his stances between his first career hit (May 27) and his first career home run (June 25)

And almost a month later, Engel's gradually brought his hands lower:

For a rookie, tinkering with hand placement can be hazardous. But Engel’s batting stance has been a work in progress for a while now, as evidenced by what it was back in spring training of 2016:

Even during spring training in 2017, Engel’s stance was closer to what it was in 2016 than what it was when he made his major league debut:

But here’s the point Steverson made about all those tweaks and changes: As long as it helps Engel get the barrel of his bat to the point of contact, who cares how it looks before the swing?

“At the point of contact, 99.9 percent of every hitter looks the same,” Steverson said. “… How you get it done is based upon timing and your inner functions. But can I get it to here on time is what it’s all about. There’s many myriad ways of doing that. You’re not going to teach somebody to do that because there’s not their functions. 

“… You got guys (in basketball) taking free throws different — did it go in the bucket or did it not go in the bucket? It’s kind of the same way with hitting. Can I get the barrel to the point of contact or can I not get the barrel to the point. And that’s the end of the story.”

The 25-year-old Engel is still trying to find his way through his first major league season, hitting .233 with a .317 on-base percentage and a below-average .650 OPS.  But he’s had some sporadic positive results, like his four-hit game against the Minnesota Twins June 22. 

There’s a fine line between finding a batting stance and hand placement that you’re comfortable with and tinkering too much, especially for a player as green as Engel. But he’ll continue to put in the work trying to find something that will yield consistent success — and that may mean another batting stance that sticks out. 

“it’s just pregame work, watch a lot of video on the starter before the games and then try to work all my work pregame, batting practice, swings in the cage, try to have a mindset that I’m going to have in the game,” Engel said. “Work on the mindset, and then when I step in the box, it’s as close to practice as it can be.” 

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

First came the roar from the home crowd. Then a bunch of fans in the first deck beyond third base stood to watch Yoan Moncada. The patient approach surfaced next.

Moncada made his White Sox debut on Wednesday night and although it didn’t feature any highlight reel moments, there were plenty of good signs. Moncada drew a walk in his first plate appearance and also lined out hard to center field in his last. The rookie second baseman went 0-for-2 as the White Sox lost 9-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It was fun to watch him come in,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I saw him in Triple-A for a while, he’s a great talent. It’s good to have some good defense. That first at-bat was obviously really good. Fought it back to 3-2, got that walk. Two good swings.”

“It was cool. It got very loud when he came up to the plate, as we expected. That was fun to watch.”

The hype and energy surrounding the arrival of baseball’s top prospect was easy to detect.

The amount of media members on hand to document Moncada’s first game was akin to an Opening Day crowd. Every camera was aimed on Moncada, who flew in from Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day to join the White Sox.

News of Moncada’s promotion at 11 p.m. Tuesday boosted the announced crowd of 24,907 by 5,000 fans, according to the team. Fans arrived early, some in Moncada White Sox No. 10 jerseys direct from China, while others brought Twinkies, the second baseman’s favorite snack food. Moncada spotted some of those bearing the sugary snacks when he stepped out of the home dugout and onto the field about 45 minutes before first pitch. Moncada, a former teammate of Jose Abreu’s in Cuba, received a loud ovation as he started to stretch.

“I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark.”

The rumble was even louder when Moncada stepped in for his first Major League plate appearance since he played for the Boston Red Sox last September. Though he quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, Moncada never wavered. He took several closes pitches, fouled off two more, and drew a nine-pitch walk.

“He had some nice at-bats,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously worked a walk. Hit two balls well. He looked very comfortable. Turned a nice double play. I think he didn’t look overwhelmed. I think he ended his first day here with us as well as you could have it be. I know he didn’t get any hits but I thought he had some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada’s second trip resulted in a groundout to first base. He fell behind 0-2 once again before working the count even. Moncada then ripped an 88-mph from Maeda down the right-field line only to have it go foul by several feet before grounding out on the next pitch.

Moncada got ahead 2-0 in the count in his final plate appearance as he faced reliever Ross Strippling. He produced an easy, fluid swing on the 2-0 pitch and ripped a 93-mph fastball for a line drive but it found the glove of center fielder Joc Pederson. The ball exited Moncada’s bat at 102.5 mph, which normally results in a hit 62.5 percent of the time, according to baseballsavant.com.

“I felt good,” Moncada said. “I think that I executed my plan. I didn't get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan.”

“I made my debut last year but this one was special, it had kind of the same feeling for me.”