SARASOTA, Fla. -- Walt Hriniak, fresh from his own workout, was in full sweat and looking for a dry shirt. The only player in the clubhouse was Joey Cora.
The sun? Still somewhere in the Atlantic.
The subject: Chicago White Sox hitters. Where they've come from, where they are. A little bit of where they might someday be.
"Before we get into mechanics," began Hriniak, the quintessential hitting coordinator, "the thing about Ventura . . . you know, everybody wants to talk about the July he had and all that. But the thing that makes Ventura special to me is the way he handled his first year, particularly the 0-for-41 and being able to overcome it."
It seems so long ago. It was two years ago. He finished that rookie season batting .249.
"He was a good hitter before he got here," Hriniak said. "Talented guy. He takes his hand off the bat now, where in college, he never did. That's one major change that he's had since college."
The release of the top hand at the end of the swing is a Hriniak trademark. Keeping the head solidly down during the swing is another. No two players do everything exactly alike, but there are some elements that are basic to his teaching. Using the entire field is another.
That Hriniak is a madman who insists on things being done one way -- his way -- is one of the great myths. Ivan Calderon, when he was with the Sox, never released the top hand. Carlton Fisk is a dead-pull hitter. They are Hriniak fans.
"He has perfected the release," Hriniak said of Ventura. "He never comes off too soon anymore, he doesn't have an exaggerated, too high of a follow-through anymore. His swing is much more level than the first year, and he's learned how to use his legs a little bit better. That's what's given him the added power.
"Tremendous work habits. He should be good for a long time."
"Ozzie was a good player before I got here," said Hriniak, in his fourth year with the Sox. "He's gotten better as a hitter, although the numbers don't really show that -- .279, .273. Ozzie Guillen, in my opinion, should hit more than that.
"Now he's starting to use the legs a little bit in his swing. He's got great hands, he's learned how to use his head. Now he's starting to use his legs."
The legs. They talked about Ernie Banks' wrists and talk about Cecil Fielder's arm strength. Who talks about legs?
"To hit home runs, or to use the whole body in the swing, you have to use your legs," Hriniak said. "Some guys use the legs more than others. Like, I guess, in golf they say the power comes from the legs, and that's why the little guys can hit the ball so far."
"When he came here, the first time I saw him, he had outstanding ability with the bat," Hriniak said. "Strong. What we've tried to do with Frank is keep him nice and short, not get too long in his swing.
"He released the top hand off the bat naturally. He's always done that. The biggest thing with him, as far as the mechanics of his swing, is staying short -- having a short pass through the ball. The first movement with the hands has got to be down inside instead of under and around."
Thomas has said he expects to hit more home runs this season, pull the ball more often.
"He's going to have to look for spots where he has to look for the ball inside, because there will be some teams that will pound him in," Hriniak said. "But he can't get carried away with that, either.
"One of the reasons why he's such a dominant hitter is that he can use the whole field. He certainly doesn't want to fall in love with looking for the ball inside all the time. You have to be able to do both."
"When I saw him when I was with Boston, the short time he was with the White Sox, it looked like he didn't know how to keep the ball out of the air," Hriniak said. "He wasn't taking advantage of his speed. The only thing we tried to teach him was, basically, how to keep the ball out of the air. He's another guy that's gotten better."
"He had a lot of people telling him how to hit," said Hriniak. " 'Try this, try that.' He really didn't have a program, never stuck with anything, didn't believe in anything.
"When we came over here, we gave him a plan, got him to work hard at it, and he's improved tremendously. It's been a lot of fun watching him get better."
A plan. That's another Hriniak thing, though not exclusively his. Another hitting coach, new to his team, once asked a player -- as it happens, a player who later had a brief stop with the Sox -- what his plan was at the plate.
"See the ball, hit the ball," the player said. "That's not a plan," roared the hitting coach. The marriage ended in divorce.
Cora was ready. Hriniak grabbed a bag of used baseballs. The two went to work.
The sky was just about light.