Alec Hansen

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox bolster pitching infrastructure by adding Dave Duncan as pitching consultant

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AP

White Sox bolster pitching infrastructure by adding Dave Duncan as pitching consultant

The White Sox added one of baseball’s top pitching minds to the organization Thursday.

The team announced that Dave Duncan, most recently known for his work alongside Tony La Russa with the St. Louis Cardinals, is the organization’s new pitching consultant.

According to the announcement, Duncan’s chief responsibilities include reviewing and evaluating video of pitchers and pitching prospects.

"Given his impressive experience and accomplishments in the game over decades in the dugout," general manager Rick Hahn said in the announcement, "Dave provides us with another set of valuable eyes to give insight into our major league pitching staff, our minor league prospects, other major league staffs and even some of the amateur arms we might be considering for next year's draft."

The move seems like an important one considering the White Sox organization’s wealth of highly touted pitching prospects. Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning all landed on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Youngsters Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez reached the big league squad last year. And Carlos Rodon, who’s experienced a pair of shoulder injuries in the last calendar year, is also seen as a key piece of the rotation of the future.

Duncan’s most prolific days were spent helping the Cardinals to a string of playoff appearances — and a pair of World Series wins — at the outset of the 21st century. His students in St. Louis included Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Morris, Darryl Kile, Woody Williams and Kyle Lohse.

Duncan spent time at La Russa's other managerial stops, as well, including with the White Sox from 1983 to 1985. He teamed with La Russa with the Oakland Athletics from 1986 to 1995 and with the Cardinals from 1996 to 2011. He worked as a pitching consultant with the Arizona Diamondbacks beginning in 2013.

Four pitchers won Cy Young Awards with Duncan as their pitching coach: LaMarr Hoyt with the White Sox in 1983, Bob Welch in 1990, Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and Carpenter in 2005. He was the pitching coach for three World Series winners: the 1989 A's and the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Alec Hansen and Zack Collins on their friendship and the fight that brought them closer together

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Alec Hansen and Zack Collins on their friendship and the fight that brought them closer together

Appearing together on the White Sox Talk Podcast at SoxFest, all was good between Alec Hansen and Zack Collins. The highly touted White Sox prospects are both friends and teammates who always get along — well, almost always.

There was a day last season in the minor leagues when the pitcher and catcher got into a fight right in the middle of a game.

"We did," Collins confessed.

What happened?

"You’ve got a guy who’s 6-7 throwing 98 on the mound, so obviously it’s not easy to catch," Collins explained. "I wasn’t having a great day. I’m just letting balls go by, running back for every pitch that he throws, which is causing runs to score, obviously hurting his ERA. He got mad, I got mad, we got into it.  And we all ended up friends at the end of it."

Where did the fight happen?

"In the dugout," Collins said. "It happens, you know?"

"We're both competitive guys," Hansen said. "It's all good. It kind of builds our relationship."

For more on the fight — starting at the 12:40 mark — plus Hansen's hopes for 2017, why he went off social media, why Eloy Jimenez is addicted to Taco Bell, Yoan Moncada's funny moment at SoxFest and more, listen to the latest episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.