GLENDALE, Ariz. — When a second chance comes your way, you grab onto it and hold tight. No one knows this more than 23-year-old right-hander Tyler Danish.
A second-round high school draft pick by the White Sox in 2013 whose pro career got off to a fast start but then stalled at the upper minor-league levels, Danish was already thinking about a fresh start in 2018 when he was driving home after a 4-14 record with a 5.47 ERA at Class AAA Charlotte. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw something that put it all in perspective.
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“I’m lucky to be alive,’’ Danish said Wednesday, recalling his involvement in a pileup that left one dead.
He knew it could have been him.
“It could have been over,’’ Danish said.
When the Knights’ season was over, Danish decided to head home to Riverview, Florida. While slowing down for an accident, he saw a semi-trailer truck bearing down from behind and “taking cars out.” Danish got slammed from behind, the force pushing his vehicle about 100 feet.
“It was a scary situation,’’ Danish said. “Not many people get a second chance in life, and I did. I’m going to try and use it every day, kind of like a motivational thing. I’m not supposed to really be here, so I just take it every day and go with it.’’
Danish walked away from it with a dislocated left shoulder, knowing it could have been his right.
“You can see how fast it can get taken from you, he said. So every day is a blessing to be alive for me now.”
Three months later, Danish sustained a blow of another kind when he was taken off the 40-man roster. With his new perspective, he felt blessed to learn he was starting the Cactus League opener against the Dodgers.
“I want to be the first guy out,’’ he said Wednesday morning. “I kind of want to be the guy that shows what I’m here for. I’m here to try and make this club.’’
But the plan changed later in the day, when Dylan Covey got the call to start instead. It is not that big of a deal when six or seven pitchers are being used this early. But guys like Danish and Covey, both recently removed from the 40-man roster, have something to prove.
“We changed it, but Danish will be out there,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.
“We’re trying to get him to hammer that strike zone. To his credit, he continues to battle. We want him to be confident in his ability to induce ground balls, which has been his forte.’’
Danish made three brief appearances for the Sox in 2016 and one spot start in 2017 — on May 27 against the Tigers — before returning to Charlotte. He pitched five scoreless innings and earned the win, but had to pitch around six walks while striking out six. This year, he wants to cut down the movement in his delivery and will work out of the stretch at all times.
“I kind of started leaning a little forward when I delivered it [in the windup],’’ Danish said. “Just late in my arm a lot of times. This kind of simplifies it and lets me get on time a lot more consistently.
“Just try to simplify everything. Better timing for me, really. I threw live in BP [on Tuesday] and I felt great.’’
Like Danish said, it just feels good to be alive.
“So take every day like it’s the last and give everything I have every single day [and] be the best person I can be,’’ he said. “As a player, and as a person around everyone else.’’
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