By Bruce Levine-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — The most senior member of the Chicago White Sox pitching staff may have the most to prove going into the 2015 season. With the retirement of Paul Konerko, eight-year veteran pitcher John Danks is now the longest-tenured White Sox player.READ MORE: Patients Left With A Lot Of Questions After Center For Covid Control Testing Sites Temporarily Shut Down, State Investigates Complaints
Beginning his career in 2007, Danks continues to make the transition from power pitcher to a sinker/slider, control-oriented technician. After shoulder surgery took away his 94-mph fastball in 2012, Danks has worked hard to reinvent himself the past two seasons.
The results have varied from average to well below average. His combined record of 15-25 with a 4.75 ERA in the past two seasons tells you little about the successful side of his comeback.
“Things have changed,” Danks said. “There were definite times when I would rear back and throw the fastball when I got in trouble. I can’t pitch that way any longer. I have to be able to get four pitches over the plate now. That’s fine, we (along with pitching coach Don Cooper) talk all the time about not giving in, using all the pitches I have with confidence in each one.”
Last season’s 32 starts was an accomplishment of sorts for Danks, who was 11-11 with a 4.74 ERA. Danks hadn’t pitched a complete season without missing a start since 2010.
“The health aspect was a plus last season, but I was inconsistent,” Danks said. “We need to work on that. I have messed around with more grips on the ball the last two years than I have in my whole career. I am not adding pitches at this point. I need to focus on being down in the zone with my sinker, slider and change-up. I have to mix it up and throw an off-speed pitch many times when I am behind in the count.”READ MORE: Two Teens Charged In Violent Carjacking On Northwest Side
The drafting and progression of 2014 first-round draft pick Carlos Rodon makes Danks’ rotation spot precarious. Chicago has two left-handed starters in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana as staples of the staff, and the lefty Rodon is coming fast. The team took calls on the availability of Danks in the offseason without making a move.
Danks will make $14.5 million in both 2015 and 2016. He can block a trade to six teams.
For now, Danks’ only concern is becoming more efficient with his pitches and being a good teammate.
“We have a bunch of new quality players on the team that could make this a fun season,” Danks said. “I want to help some of these new teammates feel welcome the same way the guys did here when I came over in 2007. We have guys that have won elsewhere and accomplished a lot. We will make them try to feel at home. We are excited to have them with us. The more comfortable a guy can be the better.”
A key in watching Danks this season will be his durability. He was 3-5 with a 5.96 ERA after the All-Star break in 2014 after going 8-6 with a 3.99 ERA in first half.MORE NEWS: Major Airlines Warn Of ‘Catastrophic Disruption’ To Travel And Shipping From 5G Debut Set For Wednesday By Verizon And AT&T
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.