BY LARRY HAMEL
For the Sun-Times
John Danks dangled another tantalizing morsel in front of the White Sox, who have yet to feast on consistency from the on-again, mainly-off-again lefty.
Since coming back from arm surgery that stripped zip off his fastball in August 2012, Danks has had flashes of brilliance creep into a morass of mediocrity.
His recent form demonstrates the maddening trend. After spinning an old-school shutout (scattering 10 hits across nine innings) against the Houston Astros on
May 31, Danks went 0-for-4 in June, including an 11-hit, five-run torching in 4-plus innings in his next start. His ERA swelled from 4.81 to 5.38.
The penance he paid for that stretch of ineffectiveness was the decision by manager Robin Ventura to skip Danks in the rotation when a rainout postponed his start. Ouch.
Perhaps the extra rest gave Danks, 30, added motivation, not to mention better command of his curveball, because he threw another tease at the Sox in his first start in July. He held the Baltimore Orioles, embroiled in a tight race in the American League East, scoreless for seven innings in a 1-0 victory Friday night. Danks (4-8, 4.95 ERA) limited the Orioles to five hits, walked two, struck out five, threw 66 strikes in 96 pitches and, best yet, was able to duck the disastrous inning that often derails him.
Ventura’s crew has crept within shouting distance of .500. If it were to get more reliability from Danks and somehow find a way to wake up its silent bats, clawing out of the cellar in the AL Central doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch.
Danks is all too aware that his team needs more performances such as this one from its fifth starter.
“I needed a good game personally,” said Danks, who will be paid $15.75 million this season and next under a five-year deal he signed in 2012. “I pitched my way into being the guy who gets skipped. I understand that. My goal is to be consistent, to work my way into being one of the top guys again.”
Ventura lauded Danks for his grit, particularly for the way he worked out of a sticky situation in the seventh (runners at second and third with one out after a wild pitch).
“The results might not always have been there, it’s been a tough go, but he will battle,” Ventura said. “Even in the seventh, [when] he had two guys on and the ball bounces away, now it’s second and third, he bears down and had the feel for those pitches to be able to pitch out of that.
“He’s got no quit in him. This [performance] was something to build off, definitely. He just looked better. [The ball] was coming out of his hand really nice.”