GLENDALE, Arizona — The White Sox expected big things of Courtney Hawkins when they chose him as the 13th overall selection in the 2012 draft out of high school in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Hawkins has had some difficult times in his short time in the Chicago organization, but has been impressive at the plate this spring. On Saturday, he connected for a pair of two-run homers, including the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth as the White Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 6-4 at Camelback Ranch.
Royals' All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon played in his first Cactus League game of the spring. Coming off right wrist surgery in the offseason, Gordon went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and said he felt no pain or discomfort. He also played in a minor-league game on Friday.
But the day belonged to Hawkins, who has bounced back from a horrible 2013 season at Class A Winston-Salem, where, despite 19 homers, struck out 160 times in 383 at-bats and batted .178.
"That season I had was definitely an eye opener," Hawkins said. "I'm staying calm, I don't feel too much like 'go get it.' I'm letting stuff come to me and trying to stay as disciplined as I can at the plate, staying aggressive at the same time."
Still just 21, and with a better year at Winston-Salem a year ago (.249, 19 HR, 84 RBI), he has been hot all spring, batting .419 with four homers and nine runs batted in. Hawkins is a non-roster player, so he'll be headed to the minors again, but he's turned some heads.
"I don't think there is anybody in our camp that has had the strides or improvement that Courtney has had," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
The White Sox trailed 4-0 early after Erik Kratz and Brett Eibner homered for the Royals.
Hawkins' first homer off Franklin Morales tied the game in the seventh. In the ninth, with a man on again, Hawkins homered to dead center off Brandon Finnegan, who pitched for Kansas City in the World Series last season.
GORDON READY TO GO
The Royals' four-time Gold Glove winner said he didn't get the plate results he was hoping for, but was otherwise pleased with his first outing.
"I saw a lot of pitches and felt pretty good at the plate," Gordon said. He was called out on strikes in the first, lined out to first in the third inning and grounded to shortstop in the sixth.
"It was good to get back in the game atmosphere. I really hadn't been in the dugout much of spring training, getting rehab during the games. So just being down there with the guys, get the adrenaline going just to get in that game action, was fun.
"I feel comfortable and I feel like I'm on track."
Royals: Joe Blanton pitched 4 2/3 innings, gave up six hits and a pair of walks but just one run. He got some help from Jarrod Dyson, who threw out J.B. Shuck as he tried to go from first to third on Jose Abreu's single.
Blanton last appeared in the majors in 2013 with the Angels, when he went 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA. He said it's a matter of "just figuring mechanics out, get timing back and string pitches together."
Blanton, 34, is a long shot to make the team. The defending AL champs' rotation is set.
"I don't feel like I threw as good as I did a couple outings ago," he said. "Definitely room for correction in there."
The 36-year-old, who gave up three runs on five hits in four-plus innings Saturday and struck out one, knows the drill.
"I've just got to get ready," Penny said. "Anytime I get the ball, I don't know if it's . it could be out of the pen, who knows?"
Royals: Outfielder Brett Eibner left the game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his left foot, then hitting into a double play and limping down the line. The Royals said he had a contusion on his foot.
White Sox: Sale said he is glad to be throwing again after Friday's bullpen session went well. The ace lefty suffered a broken foot in an accident at home three weeks ago, and continues to make progress on a speedy return. The next step, Sale said, is "working on getting a little bit more mobile. Ground balls, side-to-side stuff," he said. That will happen Monday, and he said he is still hopeful of getting into a Cactus League game before spring games end April 2.
White Sox: Jeff Samardzija goes against the Brewers and Matt Garza in Maryvale.
Royals: Danny Duffy starts Sunday in Surprise against San Francisco.