GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are improvements necessary, John Danks knows that for sure.
But the White Sox starter has seen enough development for now to be pleased with his early performance. Making his second start of the spring, Danks pitched around four hits and three walks over five scoreless innings. He struck out one.
Key to Danks’ performance was a fifth-inning jam he escaped with two straight ground balls, the second inducing a double play. Danks said it’s the function of improved stuff as he continues to regain life on his pitches after an Aug. 2012 shoulder surgery.
“I feel like I have a better chance, certainly,” Danks said. “Last year I would have to pulled a Houdini act on those and put some slow curveballs up there and tried to get some chases. I feel like I can go after guys a little more aggressively because I feel like I have better stuff. It’s a little sharper, got some movement on the fastball and the cutter’s sharp. That’s basically how I got out of that last inning.”
Danks was audibly upset after he gave up a leadoff single in the fifth inning and walked the next batter. Pitching coach Don Cooper paid a visit to the mound to go over the scouting report and point out a mechanical flaw.
Danks — whose fastball sat between 90-91 mph and had an “OK” cut-fastball per a scout’s report — adjusted per Cooper’s advice and got ground balls from Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar to end the inning. Manager Robin Ventura said he sees a difference in Danks’ ability from last season.
“He’s stronger, throws a little harder, but he consistently he can do that,” Ventura said. “That just helps with his location. Placing it where he wants to is going to be the biggest key. He just has a better ability to do that than he has in the last year-and-a-half.”
Danks has exuded confidence for the past month.
He has plenty of work to go. He’d like to improve his curveball and changeup and wants better location. He also desires more consistency.
But he knows his focus is on refining instead of regaining strength.
“We get to go get on the side here in a couple days and work on things rather than worrying about how the shoulder feels,” Danks said. “I’m excited. I’m like the kid in the clubhouse this year: just happy to be here and excited to contribute.”