CHICAGO -- The White Sox offseason hitting school, which took batting coach Greg Walker to Florida and California last winter, began for 2011 before the 2010 regular season even concluded.
"We did some things the last trip in California," said Walker, pointing to the team's final road excursion, with stops in Oakland and Anaheim during the week of Sept. 20. "We had our first session out there."
To make clear what these sessions are all about, Walker worked with Carlos Quentin and Brent Lillibridge out west last offseason and then saw Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo in action in Florida as sort of a refresher course on their in-season points. During an off-day in between facing the A's and Angels, Walker took Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Brent Morel to North Los Angeles, where a friend of Walker's had a batting cage.
They videotaped important particulars for these young contributors to work on, in regard to approach and mechanics, and then let them go home and relax in October and the early part of November. Walker will be making visits in December and January to have the players on the right track for Spring Training.
And for those White Sox followers looking for a sleeper, of sorts, to watch in Spring Training, left-handed-hitting outfielder Jordan Danks made a special trip to California to take part in this September's workout after his Minor League season concluded.
"He's one of our offseason projects, a big Minor League player for us this winter," said Walker of Danks, 24, who hit .245 with eight home runs, 15 stolen bases and 42 RBIs for Triple-A Charlotte, but also fanned 151 times in 445 at-bats.
Jordan -- who is 1 1/2 years younger than his brother John Danks, one of the top starters in the White Sox rotation -- quite possibly is the best defensive outfielder in the entire organization. With a bit more polish at the plate, the younger Danks could make a run at a 2011 big league roster spot.
Thornton has no contract worries
CHICAGO -- As a first-time All-Star and one of the American League's top left-handed relievers coming into his own at age 34, Matt Thornton would seem to be a candidate for the White Sox to lock down contractually for the next few years.
Thornton talked about his desire to stay with the White Sox past the 2011 campaign as far back as July of last season. But the potential closer-to-be is happy to work on the $3 million earned after the team picked up his option and see what happens.
"Maybe we will explore that later on in the offseason or during Spring Training, but I'm not going to cram something down their throats," said Thornton during a recent interview, adding there had been no discussions concerning an extension. "It's not something I'm worried about."
Prior to the start of the 2007 season, the White Sox and Thornton agreed to a three-year, $3.25 million extension, along with club options at $2.25 million for 2010 and the $3 million earned this year. Sergio Santos is the only somewhat-established bullpen force under contract for the South Siders past the 2011 season.
Ramirez primed to avoid cold start
CHICAGO -- Struggling in the often harsh Midwest weather conditions featured in April has become a frequent topic during Alexei Ramirez's three years in Chicago. The first-time Silver Slugger Award winner obviously has shown the ability to bounce back over the season's next five months, but White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker believes the shortstop is set up to avoid his traditional slow start.
"I've been fairly sarcastic over the last year, in that Alexei is from Cuba and has no body fat. So the cold weather does affect him," said Walker of the .205 career hitter in April. "But he is a mentally tough kid and has got better every year.
"His ability to take the ball to the opposite field, that will go a long way toward a better start. It upped his game this year. He's fundamentally [sounder] at this point than previous years."
Walker joked how Ramirez had a tendency to pull foul a lot of his most solid connections, leading the American League in this unofficial category. This stronger fundamental base should help him keep the baseball between the white lines.
Ticket prices to rise slightly
CHICAGO -- White Sox single-game tickets have yet to go on sale. But fans should expect a small increase price-wise from what they paid in 2010.
"We haven't announced our game prices at this time, but our philosophy for the last six or seven years has been a small incremental jump each year," said White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer, entering his eighth season in this capacity. "We are looking at making sure we have scenarios where families can get out to the ballpark.
"Our Value Mondays and our family packs will continue. You come in groups, and there's some cost savings there. It's going to be what our fans have come to expect."
With the way the 2011 schedule lays out, Boyer added that there will be more Value Mondays at U.S. Cellular Field.