GLENDALE, Ariz. — Courtney Hawkins’ breakout spring stepped up to another level Saturday. The No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft who struggled greatly his second season in the minors hit a two-run walkoff homer against Brandon Finnegan to give the White Sox a 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Camelback Ranch. The blast to center field came after Hawkins had tied it with a two-run shot in the seventh against Franklin Morales.
Hawkins (.419), who is likely headed to AA Birmingham, has four homers, nine RBI and a .871 slugging percentage in Cactus League play.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in our camp that has had the strides and improvement that Courtney has,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
Hawkins, who was down 0-2 in the count to Finnegan, played down the fact that Finnegan, a first-round pick in last year’s draft, pitched in the World Series.
“It’s go time, just try and play to the best of your abilities,” he said.
This is Hawkins’ first big-league camp. In 2013 at Class A Winston-Salem, the outfielder hit .178 with 160 strikeouts in 103 games. But he bounced back with a better 2014 season, batting .249 with 19 homers and 84 RBI at Winston-Salem.
“That season I had was definitely an eye-opener,” Hawkins said. “It humbled me a lot and made me more hungry if that makes sense. Thankfully right now I’m feeling great. I’m staying calm, I don’t feel too much like go get it. I’m letting stuff come to and trying to stay as disciplined as I can at the plate, staying aggressive at the same time.”
“You look at where he was with swings and misses and things like that,” Ventura said. “All the strikeouts that he has had, but I think his confidence has grown here to where he’s seeing pitches. Today he gets down 0-2 with the chance to drive somebody in and that’s a big league pitcher that he’s facing. For me he has just made huge strides. Attitude wise everything is right where you want it to be.”