The White Sox abruptly cut the chord Tuesday with left-hander John Danks, a popular teammate and well-paid starting pitcher, but an ineffective one who, as he forlornly put it himself after the last of his four bad 2016 starts, was nothing more than a drag on the White Sox April express.
Danks, 31, will be designated for assignment and replaced, at least tentatively, by AAA right-hander Erik Johnson in the starting rotation Thursday with Carols Rodon moving up a day to pitch Wednesday – Danks’ scheduled day.
Danks (0-4, 7.25 ERA) lost four games for a team that lost eight through an 18-8 start that left everyone from the clubhouse to the front office to Las Vegas oddsmakers brimming with confidence in after the Sox compiled the highest number of wins in the American League against a tough part of their April schedule that included 19 straight games and 16 of 26 on the road.
“We’ve got an opportunity to do something special here,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said.
“Every win is going to matter this season.’’
Hence the release of Danks and the $11.8 million he’ll get paid in the final months of his five-year, $65 million contract earned by pitching to a 3.77 ERA over a four-year stretch from 2008-11. In three full seasons after his shoulder surgery, Danks’ fastball was a few miles per hour lower and his ERA a full point higher. He was working with an 87-mph fastball this year.
“He’s a competitor … but there was a sense of frustration and disappointment from John,’’ Hahn said. “At the same time he understood completely where we were coming from.’’
He lost every one of his starts, including a 10-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Thursday that halted the team’s six-game winning streak.
“There are 24 guys in here who are setting the world on fire,’’ Danks said afterward.
“I got in the way of something special tonight.”
Manager Robin Ventura said the following day Danks would make his scheduled start Wednesday, and it appeared he would be fighting for his survival in the rotation. But the Sox, facing an opportunity “to build off the momentum we already have created for ourselves … and wanting to put ourselves in the best position to win games going forward,’’ as Hahn put it, would wait no more.
“He was a big part of the chemistry we had going on in here,” teammate Chris Sale said. “He was a character, a personality. But we have to keep moving. This game stops for no one. It’s the greatest job in the world but it can be cut throat as well.”
Danks was the longest-tenured member of the team, arriving in December 2006 in a trade with the Texas Rangers. A first-round pick by the Rangers in 2003 (ninth overall), he was acquired along with pitchers Nick Masset and Jake Rasner for pitcher Brandon McCarthy and outfielder David Paisano.
Ventura appeared more dejected than usual after Danks’ last performance, probably seeing the writing on the wall for him.
“It’s probably time for him,’’ Ventura said Tuesday. “Everybody knows how that goes, if you can roll off a few good [starts] and then the one bad one, everybody’s going to go back to the one bad one. It’s always tough.’’
Hahn said the fifth spot in the rotation behind Sale, Jose Quintana, Wednesday starter Carlos Rodon and Mat Latos is “fluid,’’ meaning Johnson’s start Thursday doesn’t mean he’s hear to stay. Jacob Turner and Miguel Gonzalez are also at AAA Charlotte, and free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum, recovering from hip surgery last year, is holding a showcase Friday which the Sox are expected to attend along with at least a dozen teams.
Johnson has a 3.74 ERA at Charlotte, where he earned International Pitcher of the Year honors in 2015 with a 2.37 ERA.
Danks finishes with a 79-104 record and 4.38 ERA in 247 starts over 10 seasons. He ranks among Sox all-time leaders in strikeouts (sixth), quality starts (tied for 10th) and pickoffs (fourth).