GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Danks no longer has a target date in mind, he only wants to pitch at full strength.
Danks returned to the mound Sunday with the knowledge he’ll most like begin the regular season on the disabled list.
Only seven-and-a-half months removed from shoulder surgery, the White Sox pitcher has progressed mostly as he hoped to at this point. He has without fail hit each and every mark the team has set for him, including pitching in all of his bullpens and starts without changing his schedule.
But even though Danks is on schedule in a physical sense he still has room for progress when it comes to velocity. Fortunately for Danks, he’s no longer in a rush to be ready by April 6 and can worry about making sure he’s right before he has to worry about recording outs.
“I just have to listen to my body at this point and gauge, see how it’s progressing and when I go throw see the progress I’ve made and see how much closer I need to get where I need to be,” Danks said.
Danks allowed four home runs in a 66-pitch effort on Sunday against White Sox minor-leaguers. The left-hander’s velocity continues to hover in the mid 80-mph range, a few miles below where he has pitched for most of his career. For Danks to be effective he needs to have a bigger variance between his fastball and changeup.
The team hopes if it allows Danks more time to build arm strength his velocity it will be reflected in his velocity.
“My game is changing speeds,” Danks said. “I’ve never been a high velocity guy; I need more velocity than I have now to make that gap a little bigger. If I can get back to 91, 92, that’s what I’ve always been. Not expecting much more than that. Definitely have a ways to go.”
Danks admitted he’s frustrated by one point -- his rehab has progressed well and he’s not yet ready. But he also understands this was a possibility and believes he will regain the form that allowed him to go 40-31 from 2008-10.
“It was a very general date getting to April 1, a very general time frame,” Danks said. “Each guy is different. All I can do is throw and it will come.”
Axelrod carries on
Dylan Axelrod doesn’t know what the White Sox plans are for Danks’ spot in the rotation. Manager Robin Ventura has listed him as the likeliest candidate to replace Danks but Axelrod still doesn’t know much. He’s not even certain whether he’ll pitch at the Milwaukee Brewers in an exhibition on Friday.
Axelrod, who threw 62 pitches opposite Danks in an intrasquad game on Sunday, plans to go along as he has all spring and focus on his work.
“(Coop) has to sit down and figure out what’s best,” Axelrod said. “I don’t know what the official word is, they haven’t told me anything, so I’m going about my business.”
-- Outfielder Alex Rios (back stiffness) said he’s still a little sore but described it as “nothing to worry about.” Rios, who missed Saturday and Sunday’s game after he felt something while lifting weights, hopes to return to the lineup on Monday.
-- Third baseman Connor Gillaspie was given a set of catcher’s gear on Saturday and will apparently has been anointed the team’s emergency catcher. Gillaspie said he has never caught in his life at any level.
-- Third baseman Jeff Keppinger singled in two at-bats and drove in a run to raise his spring average to .472.
-- Outfielder Alejandro De Aza hit a solo home run, was hit by a pitch and walked in four plate appearances. The homer was De Aza’s first of the spring.
-- Erik Johnson started and limited the Kansas City Royals to an unearned run and two hits in four innings. He walked two batters and struck out three.