1/26/2014 7:36 P.M. ET
Johnson uses music, art to help improve focus
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Micah Johnson chose a unique set of practices in seeking improvement for his defensive focus at second base.
The 23-year-old rising prospect put down the video games this offseason and chose instead to play the piano and paint. As Johnson explained, there's more concentration needed in both acts, such as studying and reading sheet music for the piano.
"It's something I always have loved to do, paint and play piano and guitar," Johnson said after a morning SoxFest seminar Sunday where he was part of the panel. "I do that for hours for better focus, instead of playing video games where I can do nothing but shoot a couple of guys on the screen.
"Baseball is all about focusing pitch to pitch. Sometimes I'll take a pitch off, and that's when the hard ground ball is hit to me and I'll boot it. That's not going to happen anymore."
Johnson topped the Minor Leagues with 84 stolen bases last year, and he earned a non-roster invite to Spring Training in the process. The left-handed-hitter will carry a strong belief to Arizona that he can break camp with the team, based partially on the overall improvement of his game in 2013.
"Where I came from at the start of last year to now, it's huge leaps and bounds with my game defensively," said Johnson, who hopes to remain a second baseman. "Hitting wise, I made improvements. Stealing wise, I made improvements, but defense is what keeps people around this league."
White Sox know they'll land talent at No. 3 in Draft
CHICAGO -- With the third pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, the White Sox probably can't miss on finding a can't-miss prospect.
They better not miss with one of the few benefits to come from the 2013 debacle.
"It is [important], but essentially it might be easier because the first five players of the Draft, normally you're going to get a good player," said White Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell of their lofty selection. "You can miss, obviously.
"You still have to do your due diligence, but we're going to get a good player. We're going to see a lot of guys. A lot of guys are going to see these players. Hopefully we see them on a good day to give us some options."
There's a greater ease to picking at three because the talent field can be narrowed down and a greater guess can be made as to who will go in the two prior picks as opposed to picking 18 or 21 or even lower. White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann and assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler already have met face-to-face with left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon, right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman and shortstop Trea Turner.
Meetings with right-handed pitchers Tyler Kolek and Tyler Beede and shortstop Jacob Gatewood are on the schedule. Rodon appears to be the clear-cut No. 1 pick for the Astros, and Laumann stated Sunday at SoxFest that he doesn't see Rodon slipping to No. 3.
"If he does, it would probably be under the circumstance that would probably make us question why he went there as well," said Laumann of Rodon. "Then again, there's a lot of baseball between now and then, so who knows?"
Picking someone like Chris Sale at No. 3, meaning a player who could help the White Sox in that same season, doesn't seem to be extremely likely. But Laumann believes the player picked could help soon.
"Certainly if it's a college guy, that's a distinct possibility. If it's a high school guy, we'll probably be sure that we're cautious," Laumann said. "To think there would be another repeat of what happened with Chris Sale or something like that, I think that was an aberration.
"That was kind of the perfect storm that year. If it's a college guy, he certainly fits in with this young core we have that are Double- and Triple-A and young guys in the big leagues that will fit in the next couple of years."
White Sox to honor Konerko, Thomas in '14
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko doesn't want any sort of farewell tour during his 16th and final season on the South Side of Chicago. The White Sox respect that decision, but they also plan some special year-long marketing centered on the heart and soul of their franchise.
Konerko and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, in fact, will be the focus of this season-long team celebration.
"We have two major things that are going on this year: Frank Thomas is being inducted into the Hall of Fame and it's Paul Konerko's last year," White Sox senior vice president, sales and marketing Brooks Boyer said Sunday at SoxFest. "The guy who is most identifiable with White Sox fans probably ever and the guy that helped us win a World Series and has been a staple for 15 years and is the guy.
"He's who every dad wants their son to be like. We should celebrate them, whether [Konerko] likes it or not."
Cooper guiding pitchers ahead of spring camp
CHICAGO -- White Sox pitchers already have heard from pitching coach Don Cooper, with targeted areas to improve in 2014 for each one. In fact, Cooper views himself as sort of an air traffic controller of his staff.
"Trying to guide them in for when we land in Arizona," said Cooper following his Sunday SoxFest seminar. "We're always searching for the edge. How can we help each individual guy continue the process and get to be as good as he can be?
"That might be something as minute as first-pitch strikes. … It could be anything. We're always throwing challenges out to each guy. This is where we need to get better work. Then we're rolling up the sleeves and get together to try and improve those areas in hopes that we have the best seasons we've ever had out of this guy."
By Feb. 15, when White Sox pitchers and catchers report, Cooper will sit down with every individual pitcher to discuss what he did well and what he needs to start focusing on more.
"I'm talking to probably a dozen kids right now," Cooper said. "Where they're at, what they're doing, what they should be working on as far as pitches and stuff and getting ready.
"Hopefully we'll be ready to hit the ground running when we get to Arizona. But it's the conversations that kind of get me psyched because I can sense in their voice and how they're talking that they're psyched."
Third to first
• Pat McGann, a popular Chicago comedian, emceed the final Sunday seminar of SoxFest, entitled Big League Laughs, with Adam Eaton, Nate Jones, Gordon Beckham and Tom Paciorek, after making his first appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" Friday night.
• Cooper erased any lingering doubt concerning the back of the White Sox starting rotation by all but putting rookie Erik Johnson in the fourth spot during his Sunday SoxFest seminar.
• Felipe Paulino, who had September surgery to remove a cyst pinching a nerve on the back of his shoulder after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on July 3, 2012, should have no physical restrictions when he arrives at Spring Training with the White Sox.
"I've talked to him, he feels good. I've seen some video. I'm forming some thoughts in my own mind," Cooper said. "A few weeks in we'll talk on, one, how to get him back on track and healthy and, two, what we might be able to put in or accentuate in his package to make him a better package and give him a chance to go out and give us six, seven, eight innings."
• Manager Robin Ventura indicated the team might not announce a closer until Opening Day, as they did with Hector Santiago in '12.