Walker perfect at plate, drives in five

White Sox prospect raises average from .185 to .313 in victory

By David Heck / Special to MLB.com | April 12, 2012 9:10 PM ET

Keenyn Walker widened his stance in Spring Training in order to make contact more often. On Thursday, he certainly excelled at putting the ball in play.

The White Sox's No. 7 prospect went 5-for-5 with five RBIs, lifting the Class A Kannapolis Intimidators to a 9-4 win over the Lexington Legends.

Walker, who came into the game with just five hits and three RBIs on the season, raised his batting average from .185 to .313 with the performance.

"I was trying to just relax," Walker said. "I was seeing it really well. Really just going out and having fun."

The 21-year-old outfielder started his day with an RBI double in the second inning, then came through with a bases-loaded two-run single in the third. Those two plate appearances helped to chase Lexington starter Tanner Bushue after just three innings, as the Intimidators got to him for six runs.

"In my first at-bat, [Bushue] started me off with a fastball and I hit it for a double," Walker said. "I figured he was going to start me with a curveball or changeup next time, and true enough, he started with a curveball and then came with a change. I got ahead 2-0 and he threw a fastball low and in. I got my foot down and got my hands down on it."

Walker collected a pair of singles in his next two at-bats before once more stepping up to the plate with the bases loaded in the ninth. The switch-hitter was able to pull a ground ball through the right side, plating two more runs to end his day.

"Just put the ball in play," Walker said, describing his thoughts during the at-bat. "I didn't want to strike out or anything. Of course, that 5-for-5 is going through my head, but really just putting the ball in play."

Though Walker considers himself as more of a top-of-the order hitter, he is currently batting in the middle of the Intimidators' lineup. That helped him set a lifetime high in RBIs on Thursday, as he estimated that he had never recorded more than three in a game at any level .

"I'm definitely a leadoff guy," Walker said. "I'm just hitting in the middle of the order because I changed my stance up a little bit. They're trying to get me some fastballs so I can get into a groove with my left-handed swing."

Drafted 47th overall in June, Walker signed early and played in 54 games between Class A Short-Season and Class A. The Central Arizona College product hit .257 with 41 runs scored and 21 steals in that time.

According to Walker, the most important lesson he took out of that experience was learning how difficult it is to play ball every day.

"It is an absolute grind," Walker said. "Going every day and playing a game, especially toward the end of the season, gets exhausting. I'm really just taking it one day at a time and conserving my energy. I'm trying to go 100 percent every game, but that doesn't usually work out because your body gets fatigued."

Given all that, Walker said he has one simple goal for his first full professional season.

"Make it through healthy," he said. "That's all I want to do."

David Heck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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