didn't get a Spring Training invite and spent the first month and a half of the season working out on his own. But everything changed after that.
Hankerd played a few games with an independent league team in Amarillo before the White Sox came calling. He went to Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League briefly before moving up to Winston-Salem and quickly establishing himself into one of the Carolina League's top hitters.
The 27-year-old had a .358 average with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in just 40 games with the Dash through Monday. Hankerd also had an impressive .728 slugging percentage as 28 of his 54 hits went for extra bases.
"I've been playing a lot longer now," Hankerd said. "I'm definitely a smarter hitter. The biggest part of [this season] was just getting back in the mix with an organization and trying to establish myself again."
The Diamondbacks picked Hankerd in the third round of the 2006 Draft, and he progressed as high as Triple-A in 2010. Hankerd, who plays first base and the outfield, then appeared in 31 games for the Phillies' Florida State League affiliate in 2011 before winding up Amarillo with for three months.
After not getting a Spring Training invite this year, the former USC star worked out at his old school while waiting for a call. Hankerd connected with Amarillo again and played just four games before Chicago picked him up.
He went right to Class A Kannapolis, staying there for nine games to get settled into baseball again.
"When I first got to Kannapolis, that was kind of like my Spring Training ... and everything was fresh," Hankerd said. "My body was fresh, my mind was fresh. I've been able to keep it going for the most part."
Hankerd hit .438 in those nine games with five homers and 14 RBIs and had kept right on going at Winston-Salem, where manager Tommy Thompson and his staff are working on getting Hankerd ready to move up again.
Thompson said they put him on a throwing program and worked at getting Hankerd into baseball shape. They eased him in at DH, and everything has paid off. Thompson said he wouldn't be surprised to see Hankerd get called up to Double-A at some point in the next month.
"He's been tremendous for us on and off the field with his leadership and production," Thompson said. "He brings experience, and he's a quality person. He's great to have."
Hankerd had never hit more than 12 homers in a season, but a small adjustment on high pitches over the plate has paid off in a big way.
This season, Hankerd's 13 homers have come in just 151 at-bats, but he won't change his approach of just trying to make contact and hitting the ball hard. That's what will help him move up and have a shot at a Spring Training invite next year.
"Home runs are kind of accidents," he said. "I'm still a gap-to-gap hitter. The longer you play, the smarter you get."
Consistent Karns: Potomac's Nathan Karns threw six no-hit innings in Saturday's 9-0 win over Myrtle Beach. The Nationals bullpen maintained the no-no until the Pelicans' Edwin Garcia slapped a one-out single in the top of the ninth. Karns, who has a 1.88 ERA in nine starts for the P-Nats, tossed six innings of one-hit ball in his previous start against Lynchburg on July 16.
So close, Part I: Michael Almanzar and Brandon Jacobs both fell a triple shy of the cycle in Salem's 11-5 win over Myrtle Beach on Monday, combining for six of their team's 13 hits.
So close Part II: Kyle Hendricks of Myrtle Beach threw 7 1/3 hitless innings before Wilmington's Murray Watts slapped an RBI double for his team's only hit of the game. The Pelicans didn't fare much better at the plate, finishing with just two hits, but one was Santiago Chirino's two-run homer in the fifth for a 2-1 win.