KANSAS CITY -- A day after making his fist minor league rehab start, White Sox starter John Danks, along with pitching coach Don Cooper, feel the left-hander is close to being ready to return to the team's rotation.
Danks threw 86 pitches over seven innings Thursday night with Double-A Birmingham, allowing five hits with one walk and one strikeout. His fastball velocity sat between 87-90 miles per hour and topped out at 91.
While Danks is encouraged by the results, he's not going to rush himself back in light of the Sox possibly losing 40 percent of their starting rotation.
“I had heard about Jake. The news on Gavin bums me out," Danks said. "But this whole time my focus has been on coming back and not come back when I knew I wasn’t ready. I want to come back when I know I can get big league hitters out."
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Danks was encouraged by his command Thursday night, working inside on right-handers with his fastball and cutter. The left-hander's lack of command was evident in spring training, in which he allowed 27 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 innings.
"There's still climbing going on. There's still climbing going on with everything," Cooper said. "But he's inching closer, that's for sure. And we'll have a decision to make in a little while. That was his first rehab start, and I don't know what the timeframe is. And we're not going to put a real timeframe on it, he's gotta be here by this -- thinking about him first, continuing to take care of it, and that seems to be going so well so we're just going to manage that situation."
Cooper said Barons pitching coach Britt Burns gave him a positive report on Danks, saying there was a noticeable difference between the left-hander's performance on Thursday and what he saw in spring training.
"Getting that report, that said a lot and was a big jump," Cooper said.
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For the last month, Danks had pitched in extended spring training games, although the starts didn't have much of a game atmosphere. Both Danks and Cooper said the atmosphere of a live-action game provided a boost that couldn't be found in Arizona.
"This felt more like a game situation and keeping up with the (opponent’s) lineup," Danks said. "It felt more like this was a game than what was in Arizona. … I had more adrenaline going. This was fun. I got a lot of work in the extended spring games, but this had fans. It was fun."
Danks doesn't anticipate experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary soreness after throwing seven innings Thursday -- he said he was "halfway series" about wanting to pitch into the eighth -- and will remain in Birmingham through Sunday.
The next stop for Danks' rehab tour will be a special one. On Tuesday, he'll pitch for Triple-A Charlotte in Columbus, where his younger sister Emily -- a senior who recently wrapped up a four-year volleyball career at Ohio State -- resides.
"I think (GM) Rick (Hahn) was taking care of me," Danks said.