3/11/2014 10:25 P.M. ET
Cactus League takes on a regular-season feel for Danks
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With two on and nobody out in the fifth inning for the Rangers, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper paid a visit to John Danks during Tuesday's 7-6 White Sox victory at Camelback Ranch.
Suddenly the Cactus League contest took on a regular-season feel via the words of wisdom Cooper shared with his starter.
"That was as close to an in-season mound visit as you are going to get," said Danks with a smile. "Kind of pointing out certain scouting report for the guy that's coming up and some mechanical flaws and things he's noticing from the dugout. It made total sense.
"First batter [Josh Wilson], I threw a couple of changeups that I'm accustomed to getting swings at and he didn't even come close to offering at it. I was doing certain things that were showing the ball early and Coop saw it and came out and told me. That will be something we'll work on the side to keep from doing."
The White Sox hope Danks' strong Cactus League showing in terms of location and the return of his cutter also has a regular-season feel.
"He's stronger. I think he throws a little harder," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Danks. "Consistently he can do that. That just helps with his location being able to place it where he wants. That's going to be the biggest key. He has a better ability to do that than he has in probably the last year and a half."
Jones works perfect inning in return from strained glute
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Although Nate Jones never has recorded a Major League save, the hard-throwing White Sox right-hander already feels like a closer.
"In one relation or another, we are all kind of closers," said Jones, who made his second Cactus League appearance during Tuesday's 7-6 victory over the Rangers and hurled a scoreless sixth. "As relievers, we have to come in and put the fire out or close out the fifth or sixth inning.
"Closing just happens to be the last three outs and a lot of people put the emphasis on that. But I would still go out and do the same job, throw strikes and attack hitters, try to get guys out early. If it so happens to be as the closer, then that's how it is."
Jones retired Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre on ground-ball outs, while striking out Prince Fielder swinging. The right-hander wasn't thrilled with his fastball location after his first appearance in the return from a strained left glute but benefited from focusing on that pitching aspect during a bullpen session with pitching coach Don Cooper.
"That's your best pitch. You got to locate and command and put it where you want to," said Jones of his fastball. "It's pretty important. It's No. 1 on the list.
"It felt pretty good. It was an improvement on my first outing. Got to throw the heater more for strikes. Now just keep improving. Maybe throw more first-pitch strikes."
Johnson getting defensive at second base
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The reports on Micah Johnson have been fairly consistent since he raced into the Minor League spotlight during an 84-stolen-base effort in 2013.
Johnson can run. He can hit, but his defense at second base remains a work in progress. That extra work put in by Johnson with White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing during Spring Training has started to pay dividends.
During Monday's 6-3 victory over the Brewers, Johnson made a spectacular running catch in short right field on a Mark Reynolds popup. Johnson was shifted all the way near shortstop for the pull hitter.
"It was in the sun the entire time, but it came out the last second," said Johnson on Tuesday of his Monday catch. "I guess I came in the right direction."
Routine plays look smoother for Johnson, to go with the spectacular. It has been suggested that Johnson could end up someday in center, where his speed might benefit more, but Johnson wants to play second and is doing all he can to solidify that spot.
"I just want to be sound all around. Just want to be sound defensively, offensively everything," Johnson said. "I'm comfortable [at second]. It's going good so far. More reps make you more comfortable."
Thompson feels no baseball pressure
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Trayce Thompson comes from a famous athletic family … made of basketball players.
His father, Mychal, won two NBA championships as part of the Lakers. His brother, Klay, forms a high-powered one-two punch with Stephen Curry on the Warriors, and his oldest brother, Mychel, plays in the NBA D-League. Luckily for Trayce, he chose to carve out his own professional niche with the White Sox in the world of baseball.
"The fact that I play baseball in a basketball family, I feel like people think of me as a sidenote now," said Trayce with a smile. "I was drafted before them, I was a professional before them. But now Klay is in the spotlight and everything. It almost sheds a little light off of me.
"I don't feel any pressure whatsoever. When I go see them play, it's more motivating to me to get on his level but no pressure at all."
Thompson is taking part in his third big league camp and readily admits that this has been the most comfortable. Everyone knows who he is and he has no problem going up and picking the brain of long established veterans such as Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn.
MLB.com rates Thompson as the No. 5 White Sox prospect, and the White Sox hold him in the same high esteem. That confidence remains elevated despite a somewhat uneven 2013 showing with Double-A Birmingham, where Thompson hit .229 with 131 strikeouts, but had a .329 on-base percentage, 15 homers, 23 doubles and 25 stolen bases.
It's that confidence from the organization driving Thompson toward greater accomplishments.
"[First base coach] Daryl Boston has been one of my biggest supporters since I was drafted," Thompson said. "[White Sox minor league director Nick Capra] Cappy and [assistant general manager] Buddy [Bell] have always been in my corner. I appreciate that a whole lot. I know I haven't had the easiest road so far.
"Every year has ups and downs. The fact that they believe in me gives me a whole lot of confidence and I just try to go out there and play my game. If that's good enough for them, it's good enough for me."
As for basketball, Thompson played through his junior year in high school. He was a good defender, talking about how he held Jrue Holiday and DeMar DeRozan in-check. But his self-admitted subpar shooting reinforced the point he picked the right sport.
Third to first
• Right-handed reliever Ronald Belisario makes his White Sox Cactus League debut Thursday in Tempe against the Angels.
• Ventura thinks it will be another five or six days before he can put the starting lineup together for a stretch of games.
"You are still trying to get guys at-bats and make sure the young guys that are up here get at-bats before they aren't here anymore or heading on their way," Ventura said. "But it's important for our guys to get at-bats. You have to kind of balance that. It's not always as easy as roll them out there for five days in a row."
• Omar Poveda and Scott Snodgress each worked three innings and struck out five during a 7-7 B game tie played against Cleveland in Goodyear on Tuesday morning. Johnson added three hits, while Andy Wilkins homered and drove in three and Alex Liddi homered and drove in two.