GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jordan Danks -- the best defensive outfielder in the Chicago White Sox organization, according to Baseball America -- is an improved bat away from being called up to the big leagues.
He came to spring training with the mindset that he will begin the season in Triple-A Charlotte, but Danks is going to do his best to make the decision harder for the new coaching staff. He’s already received positive feedback from new hitting coach Jeff Manto.
“(Manto) just kind of watched me for one full round, and I was thinking, ‘I hope he likes what he’s seeing,’” Danks said. “He gave me real positive feedback and said to keep doing what I’m doing and that’s great. That was a confidence booster.”
What Danks, the younger brother of John Danks, did was stop thinking so mechanically and take a wider base with his batting stance so he could best use the leverage from his 6-foot-4 frame.
“Because I’m so tall and sometimes the hips will go and you can get yourself in trouble with that,” Danks said. “So they wanted me to be a little bit more wider, but I couldn’t find a comfortable spot doing that. I always found myself getting all the way back up, and so this year I referred back to when things were the best for me and that was high school. So then I got to college and got tweaked a little bit and kind of lost all of that power that I had. So I referred to what felt best for me there. It’s sort of like a Griffey-style swing. He’s more upright but when he takes his stride he has more of a base.”
This would be Danks’ third season in Charlotte, where he hit .257 last season and has seen his strikeouts increase each year (he had 155 last season).
Come the start of the season, Danks figures to be in his best shape ever. He dedicated himself to a rigorous training program in Austin, Texas. As part of that regiment, he did Olympic-style weightlifting three times a week, everything from above the head snatches to hang cleans, then circuit, bodyweight training, sprinting and agility work on the two days in between.
Danks said he always felt like he entered pro ball with an advantage because he knew what to expect after watching his brother go through it. But this spring training, not only is his motivation at its highest -- his being left in December’s Rule 5 Draft and the recent signing of Kosuke Fukudome aside -- but so is his comfort level.
“This being my third big-league camp, you’re not so much star-struck anymore,” Danks said. “When you go to the next ballpark and you see a big name standing on the hill you’re not like, ‘Oh man.’ Now it’s just like, this fastball is a fastball like anybody else. I feel to a point that my confidence is there, and I can hit anybody. Throw your best stuff, let’s see what you’ve got. That’s definitely a good feeling, too. You’re not so timid.”