By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) White Sox left-hander John Danks has a chip on his shoulder rather than an injury this spring. After throwing an entire 2013 campaign without any pain, the goal this season is to re-establish himself as a premier pitcher.
Danks lost 14 games in 2013, but he and the Sox staff believed it was a major accomplishment to pitch a healthy season. The shoulder surgery he had was only done successfully once before (Johann Santana).
The critics want to see Danks have enough arm strength to blow a fastball by a hitter in a crucial situation. Danks wants to prove that aspect of his game as well.
“I am not a dummy,” Danks said. “I know there are questions about me. I get it, but I am ready to start proving some people wrong and prove to people I am back to where I need to be.”
Danks signed a five-year, $65 million deal before the 2012 season, only to go down with the shoulder injury that may. He has a 7-18 record since signing the big deal, and that’s great motivation for the aggressive Texas native.
The consensus around the White Sox is that Danks is a better all-around pitcher due to the hard work he has put in since the surgery in 2012. He got off to a good start Thursday, throwing three scoreless innings of one-hit ball while walking two and striking out two in his spring debut, which came against the Mariners.
“I am a better pitcher, at least I hope so,” he said. “I had to do some things last year that I have never had done (off-speed pitches other than a change-up). I have a little more strength, and I think I am a better pitcher.”
After being part of a 99-loss team in 2013, Danks and his teammates have a lot to prove. The negativity by the media is just more motivation to prove the critics wrong.
“We don ‘t need a whole lot of motivation,” he said. “We will use every bit extra that we can. We understand what happened last year was unacceptable, and guys worked extra hard this offseason to make sure they are ready and continue to work hard now.”
Truly one of the class guys in the game, Danks said doctors said it would probably be two years until he was at full strength.
“It has been around 18 months since the surgery,” he said. “I feel I am ahead of the curve. I feel great. I try and look as last year was a success from staying-healthy viewpoint. All that is fine, but the big leagues is not the instructional league. I need to win ballgames and that is all I am here to do.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.