John Danks is in the first year of a 65 million deal that's paying him to be the ace of the White Sox. He's under team control through 2016, so one bad month shouldn't cast a pall over the next five seasons.
But April has been cruel to Danks, who hasn't come close to pitching like the ace the White Sox expected. The lefty again struggled with control Friday night against Boston, walking four and allowing seven runs in 5 23 innings as the White Sox fell to the Red Sox 10-3 at a chilly U.S. Cellular Field.
"I'm not okay with it at all. I stole two wins and pitched like crap the other ones," a frustrated Danks said of his start to the season after the game. "That's way too inconsistent. That's the deal."
Danks was quick to dismiss the notion that the 40-degree temperatures and stiff winds played a part in his rough outing.
"The Red Sox had to play in it too. That's just an excuse," Danks said. "I'm not gonna use that. Daniel Bard pitched his ass off today in that weather. Part of the game. We're up here in Chicago, we know it's going to be cold early in the season, and more often than not that'll be advantage pitcher. And it sure as hell wasn't tonight.
"You gotta make pitches, you gotta do your job and I didn't do it. That's the part that stinks."
After not allowing a walk on Opening Day in Texas, Danks has issued 15 free passes in 24 13 innings over his last four starts. Equally as concerning, he's only struck out 16 and allowed four home runs. And his ERA has ballooned to 6.23.
"Walks have bit me in the ass all year to this point," Danks sighed. "It's definitely something we're going to have to focus on, that and keeping the ball in the ballpark. It's frustrating, it sucks. It sucks to go out there and get your hat handed to you. We're all competitive, we don't want that to happen, and what are you gonna do? Try to be ready for the next one."
Danks isn't a stranger to slow starts, though. Through the end of May last season, Danks had a 5.25 ERA with 25 walks, 46 strikeouts and 11 home runs allowed in 70 13 innings. Eventually, Danks turned things around -- he had a 3.69 ERA with 21 walks, 89 strikeouts and 8 home runs in 16 starts after Memorial Day.
But this season's struggles have been more pronounced. Danks' changeup hasn't been up to par, as he's either struggled throwing it for strikes, struggled commanding it in the zone or both. He's thrown plenty of good ones -- about one in every five has resulted in a swing and miss -- but the bad ones have hurt.
Without a good changeup, Danks is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, featuring only a fastball and cutter. And since he's not Mariano Rivera, he's had issues.
"It was hit or miss. When I was able to keep it down, and really try to stay on top of it, it was good," Danks said. "But, you know, just struggled with kind of everything. That's the frustrating part of it, I felt good, I felt like I had good enough stuff to give us a chance to win and didn't. Wasn't able to do it."
There were stretches where Danks looked like a 65 million pitcher Friday night. He retired 10 in a row in the middle innings, but that stretch of success was sandwiched between a bevy of walks and hits.
Danks knows he's only made five starts. There's plenty of time for him to turn things around, and he remains hopeful -- even if he doesn't quite know why he's run into this maddening malaise.
"It's just been inconsistent, just gotta keep working on it and -- I don't know," Danks shrugged. "We're going to keep working at it. I know I have it in me, and hopefully starting next outing we'll get on the right track."