GLENDALE, Ariz. – There is a place in most starting rotations for innings eaters like left-hander John Danks, even with the consistently high ERAs the White Sox left-hander has posted in three seasons since having shoulder surgery: 4.75, 4.74, 4.71.
For Danks, who was about a run per nine innings better pre-surgery, it’s not good enough. For a Sox team which has designs on contending after three consecutive losing seasons, it might not be, either.
“Are you asking me if I’m OK with a four and a half?’’ Danks said after giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday. “No. Does that answer your question? I’ll take 200 innings. But I certainly would like to be a lot more consistent than I have the last couple of years. That’s what we’re here for.’’
To that end, Danks and pitching coach Don Cooper are simplifying Danks’ mechanics to, as Danks said, give him the best odds of locating pitches. With less velocity to work with at this stage in his career, there’s less forgiveness for not hitting spots. On Sunday, Danks pitched a perfect first inning and a perfect fourth but in between got whacked for eight runs on six hits including two homers by Peter O’Brien, who has 12 major league plate appearances. He also walked two while striking out three.
Danks, who logged 177 2/3 innings last season and 193 2/3 in 2014, knows his critics, who’d like to see more bang for the bucks ($14.25 million) he will extract from the Sox’ payroll in the final year of his five-year, $65 million contract as a back-of-the-rotation starter, will howl.
“Let ‘em,’’ Danks said. “I mean really, I get it. What was it, eight runs? I get that and it’s totally fair and we’re all big leaguers, I would expect more.
“But like I said there were things I was working on. We had a bigger priority today. We got to take the revised mechanics out. We got to work on certain pitches and it was a good day. We accomplished what we hoped to accomplish and we’re going to get on the mound again in a few days and continue to iron things out.’’
In three starts covering 9 2/3 innings, Danks has allowed 13 runs. But he said his feel for those refined mechanics is coming along faster than he expected.
“We’re well on our way,” he said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve made strides. We’ve simplified things and made things a little easier for me, so it’s coming a little easier and faster than I thought it would. Definitely things to work on but that’s what spring is for.”