Adrian Nieto has become sort of a personal catcher for John Danks, catching all seven of the left-hander's starts this season. The results have been rocky, as Danks had a 5.00 ERA and 20 walks in 36 innings over his first six starts.
But Wednesday, Nieto saw a glimpse of how good Danks can be.
Danks allowed three runs over six innings, but the way he went about his outing may have been more encouraging than the results. The 29-year-old struck out eight and walked only one, throwing 65 percent of his pitches for strikes as the White Sox beat the Cubs, 8-3.
"That's John Danks right there," Nieto said.
Danks said that marked improvement -- he threw only 56 percent of his pitches for strikes in his first six starts -- was the product of a few issues he ironed out with pitching coach Don Cooper this week.
"We sat down and watched a lot of video after the last start and found some mechanical things, but more than anything trying to do too much," Danks said. "I was able to stay a little more within myself and for that I had better control."
Manager Robin Ventura said he saw Danks feel more comfortable with his changeup against the Cubs, a key pitch that's become even more important for a guy who's lost about two miles an hour off his fastball since undergoing shoulder surgery in August of 2012. Danks said one of the upshots of trying to do too much was losing effectiveness with that pitch, which in turn led to those 20 walks against only 21 strikeouts.
"My whole career the changeup's been my big pitch I lean on and tonight was no different," Danks said. "Fortunately it was there and I was able to use it effectively."
According to BrooksBaseball.com, Danks threw 27 changeups against the Cubs, 20 of which were for strikes. Fourteen changeups generated a swing, and seven generated a swing and miss.
Those numbers are about in line with his changeups in his previous six starts but Nieto raved about the action on Danks' changeup Wednesday, which led to more success for the left-hander with his fastball. Danks threw his fastball for strikes about 10 percent more often Wednesday than he did in his previous six starts.
That's probably not a coincidence given how good Danks and the White Sox felt about his changeup.
"That's a big pitch for us," Nieto said. "If it's on, then we're going to be all right."
Results-wise, Danks has done better than he did Wednesday -- he allowed one run in six innings April 16, then followed that with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball April 21. But Danks walked seven in those two starts with only four strikeouts. Eventually those free passes caught up to him, as he allowed 12 runs (with seven walks and seven strikeouts) over 10 2/3 innings in his last two starts.
It's just one start, but Danks and the White Sox came away feeling encouraged with how he threw Wednesday.
"I think we found something," Danks said. "Hopefully we can build on it and get back on track."