The White Sox hosted a Q&A conference call today with John Danks, Don Cooper and new hitting coach John Manto for Sox season ticket holders Thursday afternoon. No groundbreaking questions were answered but at this time of year it’s always nice to hear inside folks excited about the upcoming season. Those of you heading to Sox Fest this year, I suspect you’ll hear all the same information and more…
The italics are my thoughts, and I’ll thank you in advance for excusing my paraphrasing:
What do you believe is your strongest pitch?
He couldn’t really commit between the change up and the cutter. He’s got a reliance on the cutter but when the change is working, that pretty much means he’s in for a good day. He also mentioned his desire to start off more at-bats catching batters off guard with curveballs. He said he loves getting guys to strike out reaching for a change up, but also loves freezing them on a fastball. All of these things have to do with outthinking hitters. John has some velocity but it’s good to know that he enjoys getting these guys out with placement and pitch selection just as much as blowing it by them.
What can the fans in the stadium do to help motivate you or let them know they’re behind you?
All players are different and respond to different things. He likes to play in big games at big moments and when the crowd is behind him, standing up and making extra noise he gets a rush out of it. Example: game 163. I must admit when he said he liked big moments, 163 was the first thing that came to my mind.
Who do you least like to see coming to the plate?
Michael Cuddyer. Apparently there is no pitch in the John Danks arsenal that Cuddyer doesn’t hit hard. This apparently grew into a joke in the clubhouse as teammates would try to get him the ball to commemorate the rare moments when he actually did get Cuddyer out. He also said that he disliked seeing “anyone on the Twins” at the plate. That the team had to be more effective as a whole against Twins hitters. Not sure I approve of such thinking. I’d like to think that the Twins domination of the Sox is a figment of the fans and that the players are not really thinking of it.
Who is going to pitch Opening Day?
He isn’t too concerned with the “honor” of pitching Opening Day. Instead he spoke of paying attention to the match-ups not just in the opening series but organizing the rotation to be in a good position for games 4 and 5 when we head into Cleveland. Which are arguably more important divisional games.
Is there any chance that we will see a 6 man rotation this year?
No. Unless we are put in a position where there is no choice there will be no 6 man rotation. Last year it was a matter of necessity, in getting Jake Peavy more time between starts because he didn’t have it in him as often as he’d like. I’m very glad to hear this. I hate the idea of a 6 man rotation but I can see the logic as he explains it. I think I’d sooner move the less durable man, in last year’s case Peavy, to the bullpen.
Do you have plans to try and work with Peavy on his lack of follow through on pitches? Do you think it’s causing his injuries?
Jake doesn’t need to change, that is how he pitches and that is how he’s been effective. He has no interest in having Jake Peavy change his motion. On the whole, with any of his staff he is not opposed to alterations, but doesn’t like the word change. And neither do his pitchers. He qualified his stance by pointing out that the White Sox rank among the best in the league for injuries, meaning that the team’s players miss less time than the average team. Baseball Prospectus’ CHIPPER system agrees that White Sox do a fine job of avoiding team injuries. A nod to Herm Schneider, indeed.
Do we know who our closer will be?
No. It would be silly to name a closer right now and see a guy show up in Spring Training not being able to get anybody out. Because there are so many new faces Spring Training performances are going to have to be relied on a lot more than they have been in the past. I agree with the wait and see approach. There is too much ceremony involved in the “closer” title as it is.
Who are you most excited about seeing pitch in 2012?
Addison Reed. He liked many of the things he saw out of Reed last year and has some specific things he’s identified for him to work on and believes he can be very effective. A lot of the rumors have Reed himself becoming the closer but even if Cooper thinks he will be it makes sense for him not to put pressure on the kid by saying so this early.
Do you have a specific philosophy for hitting?
He uses what he terms a wait and see approach. He also sees himself as an in-game coach, helping hitters to make adjustments between at-bats. Big league hitters should have the ability to make changes in-game.
Do you see a difference between the way Gordon Beckham was swinging the bat in his rookie year, when he was more effective and seemed on his way to being a quality hitter?
A big part of it is where he is holding his hands when he bats. Also it’s clear that his confidence has taken a hit which is compounding things. Gordo has been especially frustrating to me. I don’t know who I’ve seen swing and miss at more balls in the zone than Gordon Beckham during the last couple seasons.
Have you spoken to Gordon, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios about how they’d like to approach this year and make adjustments to have a more successful season at the plate?
He has talked to Gordon but seems to be “playing phone tag” with Dunn and Rios. Phone tag? Yeah I’ll bet.