GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Though observers praised his first official bullpen on Thursday morning the competitor in John Danks wanted more.
The attaboys from teammates and coaches arrived in bunches, but when Danks initially walked up to catcher Tyler Flowers after the 11-minute session he indicated he could have been sharper.
Yet as he addressed the media 30 minutes later, Danks allowed himself to be excited about another positive step back after shoulder surgery last August. While affording himself leeway these past few months hasn’t always been easy, Danks does realize he has made significant progress and is pleased.
“It doesn’t tone back at all,” Danks said of his nature. “I have to remind myself it isn’t going to come back over night. At the same time, when I’m out there working, I’m trying to be productive. I’m not just throwing to say ‘Hey I threw 50 pitches.’ I’m getting my work in, but at the same time I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone.…It felt real good. It’s encouraging to be able to go out there and throw all four pitches and feel good after.”
Both Flowers and pitching coach Don Cooper were pleasantly surprised with where Danks already is in his recovery. Flowers said Danks’ velocity was down a tick but noted his curveball has never looked better than it did Thursday. He also offered compliments to Danks’ changeup and cut fastball.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it was better than I expected,” Flowers said. “It's good to know that he's feeling good. That's one of the biggest things. If you're feeling good, you can continue to work and fine tune everything.”
Cooper wants Danks to take the same long view as Flowers: Command shouldn’t be the concern at this point. Health is the focal point. Cooper said he’s pleased with how free and easy Danks’ delivery is and to find that he looks to be in a much better spot physically.
“It's kind of foolish to be hard on yourself command-wise,” Cooper said. “My main concern is how do you feel before, how do you feel during and how do you feel after, including the next day. That's how you should be grading yourself. Now, hey, 10 days from now, that'll be a little fairer assessment because we're expecting anybody, whoever it is, to look better 10 days from now. This is the start. That was a great day for John and we're going to continue climbing with him and everyone else.”
Manager Robin Ventura’s big takeaway is the pain-free look he saw in Danks’ face, the opposite of what he saw the last time the southpaw threw in 2012 as he labored in an effort to return to the team.
“He looked free and easy,” Ventura said. “The look on his face and what he was going through, it’s a lot different right now.”
Still, the White Sox know they need to reign in Danks a little.
He’s in the first of four seasons in which he will earn $14.25 million and the White Sox want him healthy in the long run. They don’t want Danks to overdo it in a bid to make the opening-day roster. Danks will now rest for two days before he returns for another bullpen session on Sunday. Then after two more days off, the plan calls for him to throw again on Wednesday. Danks indicated he’s OK with how he the team wants to handle him.
“I’m just trying to do what I’m told,” Danks said. “I tend to want to push things. I understand that, but I think the one common goal is that we all want me to be healthy and on the field…I felt good and the next step will be to start worrying about pitches.”