TEMPE, Ariz. -- Solid contact has been the watchword for shortstop Alexei Ramirez throughout Cactus League action, posting a .375 average. That success could be due in part to an adjustment he made in the batter's box.
"My set up used to be right up in front of the plate, and now I moved back," said Ramirez through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. "That allows me to see the ball a little bit longer and make better adjustments."
Ramirez enters his sixth season with the White Sox, in the second year of a four-year, $32.5-million contract extension. He's trying to bounce back from what he considered a subpar 2012, when he drove in 73 runs, but only hit nine homers.
Despite results, Danks encouraged by outing
TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Danks knows there's little room for error, especially with his fastball still lacking a little velocity, as his arm strength continues to build up following Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery.
He also understands there's no magic elixir to fix the issue. All Danks can do is continue to work and take the mound, just as he did for 3 1/3 innings and 61 pitches during Thursday's 12-4 loss to the Angels in Tempe.
"I talked to Dr. [Anthony] Romeo last week and he told me that I'm doing everything I could do," said Danks, referring to one of the doctors who performed his surgery. "There's not any special exercises or treatment I can do. I just have to go out there and throw through it.
"Certainly the focus right now is on that I can't make myself throw it any harder than what I'm trying to do. I just have to be able to throw it where I can get the best results."
Those results, at least on paper, weren't exactly perfect on Thursday. Facing a stacked Angels' lineup that featured every starter except catcher and shortstop, Danks gave up six runs on seven hits, while striking out two and walking one.
Danks threw 39 of his pitches for strikes, including a 1-1 changeup in the first inning that Mike Trout drove out for his first Cactus League home run. Through three Spring Training starts, Danks has allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits over 7 2/3 innings. But remember, he hadn't pitched in a game since a four-inning rehab start last June 12 in Columbus.
So Thursday's effort was considered an overall success by the southpaw.
"Obviously the results don't show, but I feel like this was probably one of my better outings, just in terms of seeing some results," Danks said. "I threw some good changeups, I was able to get the cutter working toward the end. Obviously I gotta get the ball down, but that'll come.
"There's plenty of positives to take out of it. You don't like to come out of it like that, but it's another small step. I won't say a leap, but it's a small step in the right direction."
Three more starts are on tap for Danks before the start of the regular season: March 19 vs. the Reds, March 24 vs. the Royals or on the Minor League side, and then March 29 at Miller Park against the Brewers. He has no doubt he will break camp with the team, but much like the arm strength issue, Danks believes all he can do to convince the higher-ups is go out and pitch.
"It's a team sport and it's win driven," Danks said. "It doesn't matter who is out there getting you wins as long as someone is getting you wins. I fully anticipate them taking the best five guys they have at that time. Hopefully I'm one of them. I have no doubts that I will be. That's their decision to make."
"He's progressing each time out with how he's feeling and velocity and stuff like that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That right now is more important, him being healthy than thinking that far ahead."
Flowers blooming under extra set of eyes
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Count Tyler Flowers as one of the many White Sox position players benefiting from the job title change of Harold Baines to the team's assistant hitting coach. Jeff Manto certainly connected with the hitters in his first season in charge of the offense, with the White Sox finishing last season fourth in the American League in runs scored.
But having an extra pair of eyes on the daily work, from an accomplished hitter such as Baines, is always a plus.
"It's going to make it a little bit easier to be consistent with what you are doing day in and day out, not having to make big changes," Flowers said. "Everything stays intact with both of those guys watching you. If they see something starting to creep in, they say something and nip it in the bud right away.
"They have the same ideas mechanically. They both like to talk about approaches. Your mindset in that at-bat, what this pitcher is going to try to do to you to get you out and what is his arsenal to get you out to make your own gameplan against him. You hear it two different ways, and it's a good thing. They might be saying the same thing but you are hearing it in a different fashion. Sometimes it clicks better one way vs. the other. It will help everyone even more."
Flowers is hitting .316 with one homer during Cactus League action after three good at-bats in Thursday's 12-4 loss to the Angels, but those numbers aren't nearly as important as the positioning of his hands in each at-bat. He's trying to keep them at a consistent spot in the swing, basically staying where they start.
"I have a tendency to drop them sometimes which causes a whole misfire in the swing," Flowers said. "When they stay there, it has been good. I have a really good chance every at-bat to hit the ball hard. When they don't, it's not so good.
"But I've got two guys on me to let me know when it's happening and it's really only happened a few times. The good thing is, I've started to feel it myself. I'm learning and hopefully I'll be able to correct it if this does come up mid at-bat. I'll be able to feel it and correct it right away and give myself a good chance."
Crain expects to be ready for Opening Day
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Despite not pitching since Feb. 25 against the Giants -- his only Cactus League appearance -- due to a right adductor strain, reliever Jesse Crain is not worried about being ready to break camp with the White Sox in two weeks.
"It's getting closer, but I know what I need to do to get ready," Crain said. "Bullpen wise, my arm feels great and my pitches feel great. It's just being able to extend and be game ready and hopefully I'll be that in the next couple days."
Crain threw a bullpen session on Wednesday with the intent that if he felt good enough, he would appear in a Minor League game that same day. It was a positive session, but the veteran wasn't ready to push the injury.
He hopes to feel good enough for another bullpen session on Friday.
"I can tell when I'm ready to throw in a game and as of yesterday I wasn't," Crain said. "But it's still taking a step forward, so hopefully I'll be even another step forward and be ready to go. I'm not worried about it."
The biggest problem for Crain is "pushing through the pitches" to get his leg extension.
"Not my arm or anything," Crain said. "It's just my leg when I get all the way out there."
Third to first
• Jeff Keppinger was scratched from Thursday's starting lineup due to personal reasons. He was scheduled to play second base against the Angels, after being scratched from Monday's contest against the Reds with slight inflammation in his right shoulder. He could return Friday or Saturday according to Ventura. Gordon Beckham replaced Keppinger at second and batted second.
• Friday's second and final Cactus League game against the Cubs has a special start time of 2:05 p.m. CT, which is 12:05 p.m. in Arizona. The first pitch will be one hour earlier than usual.
• The White Sox are 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position over their past two losses.