GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox minor leaguer Danny Hayes has thoroughly enjoyed his first trip to big league camp. He's hoping it affords him a nice springboard in 2017 after he missed more than 2 1/2 months of last season with an injury.
The Oregon State-product has driven in a team-high seven runs this spring and is second on the club with a 1.080 OPS in 16 plate appearances. The early performance is even more than Hayes — a 13th-round pick in the 2013 draft — could have hoped for after he received the invitation.
"I'm just out here having a good time and embracing it," Hayes said. "It's kind of a dream come true to be in a big league locker room for the first time. I'm just trying to have fun and enjoy it while it lasts."
Hayes, 26, is hitting .357/.438/.643 with a three-run double and a two-run homer in 14 at-bats. Though he had a plan how would attack pitchers, Hayes didn't know what to expect. After injuring a core muscle last June, Hayes had been limited to 59 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League in which he produced a .464 OPS.
But Hayes has been hitting the ball hard ever since he returned to Arizona.
The success includes several big hits against left-handed pitchers. Hayes' three-run double last Thursday came at the expense of San Francisco Giants lefty Matt Moore and he blasted a two-run homer off Los Angeles Angels southpaw Nate Smith on Saturday.
"He has been swinging the bat pretty well," manager Rick Renteria said. "That was a big home run he hit for us the other night against the Angels. Playing well defensively. Just in general putting on a good show for us here in camp."
Hayes also enjoys that his best performances have come in front of several family members, who drove 13 hours from Sacramento, Calif.-area to see him play. His grandparents were in town for Saturday's homer before leaving on Monday.
Though he's in awe of being in the big league camp, Hayes has tried to not let it affect his approach. He also won't allow himself to look at the big picture and potentially distract himself.
"I kind of look at it all as the same," Hayes said. "If you swing at the pitches you're supposed to, you hope the barrel goes up and hopefully the results come from that, being in the right position and hitting the pitches that you're supposed to.
"I really don't worry about the front office's decisions. Whatever this club needs me to do what I'm here to do. If they need me in the big leagues or if they need me in Triple-A or if they need me wherever, I'm going to go there. I'm here to help win a championship and bring a championship back here. I'll do whatever I'm asked to do."