TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Danks made his third Cactus League start Thursday, facing a loaded Angels lineup headlined by Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. He threw 61 pitches and allowed six runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts, and after the game said he felt like it was one of his better starts despite the results.
"There's plenty of positives to take out of it," Danks said. "Obviously you don't like to come out of it like that, but it's another small step. I won't say a leap, but it's a small step in the right direction."
Danks' fastball velocity has yet to return to the low-90's average he enjoyed prior to shoulder surgery last August. His velocity on Thursday averaged in the mid 80's and scraped 90.
With two and a half weeks until Opening Day, that's not a concern for Danks, although he does admit there's a chance he won't be in the initial White Sox starting rotation.
"I fully anticipate them taking the best five guys they have at that time," Danks said. "Hopefully I’m one of them. I don’t have any doubts I won’t be. That’s their decision to make."
At this point, that's a decision manager Robin Ventura thinks will go in Danks' favor.
"I’m not looking that way right now," Ventura said. "He’s progressing each time out. He’s progressing each time out with how he’s feeling and velocity and stuff like that. That right now is more important, him being healthy than thinking that far ahead."
As for the dip in velocity, Danks sees a potential potential positive in not being able to blow hitters away with high fastballs.
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"I have enough on it, if I can locate it a little better than I did today I should be all right," Danks said. "I can't get away with quite as much as I was able to before surgery, but maybe it's good for me in the long run, learn how to pitch a little bit."
Danks said his shoulder doesn't bother him, and that he's not doing anything different in terms of special exercises or treatment. At this point, the only thing he can do it "throw through it" -- and facing a lineup as deep and talented as the Angels' served as a big help.
"More than anyone else in camp, I'm needing to see reactions, and how guys are taking pitches," Danks, who last faced a major league lineup in late May of 2012, said. "I just need to kind of get it going a little more -- some of these other guys can go out there and just get their work in, certainly I'm doing the same thing, but I'm hoping to see progress each time. I don't feel like I can really do that unless I'm facing big league hitters."
Those big league hitters roughed him up on Thursday, with Mike Trout blasting a leadoff home run a doubling off the top of the left field wall two innings later. While it's just spring training and Danks has only thrown 7 2/3 innings, the results Danks saw Thursday won't cut it in three weeks.
"Even though it’s spring training, you’d like to see a little bit better than this," Ventura said.
Keppinger a late scratch
Jeff Keppinger was in the White Sox initial lineup Thursday morning at second base, seemingly a key step as he works back from a sore shoulder. But Keppinger was later removed from the lineup due to a personal matter, with Gordon Beckham starting in his place.
Ventura said Keppinger's absence "had nothing to do with baseball" and expects the infielder back with the team in a day or two.
Crain not worried about missing Opening Day
Jesse Crain has yet to clear himself to appear in a game as the right-hander continues to deal with a hip issue, although he feels that time is close. With that in mind, he's not concerned about being on the shelf when the White Sox open the regular season April 1 against Kansas City.
"It's getting close, but I know what I need to get ready and my arm's in shape," Crain said. "Bullpen-wise, my arm feels great and my pitches feel great, it's just being able to extend and be game-ready. Hopefully I'll do that in the next couple days."
In the field
Hector Santiago allowed one run in two innings of work against Angels' reserves, while Dewayne Wise hit a solo home run in the sixth inning. The White Sox committed three errors in a 12-4 loss to the Angels.