By Bruce Levine–

GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Left-hander John Danks is the longest-tenured White Sox player in the organization. That’s a title that’s usually reassuring for ballplayers, but in the case of the likable Danks, nothing is for sure after 2016, and his role this year still has to be earned.

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On Thursday, Danks took the mound in Chicago’s spring opener, allowing three runs and a homer in two innings of work.

The 30-year-old Danks will be a free agent after this season, as he’s finishing a five-year, $65-million deal that remains the second-biggest contract doled out in franchise history. His overall impact while on the deal has left everyone wanting more. Since the start of 2012, Danks has compiled a record of 25-44 and had an ERA below 4.70 in a season just once.

Danks was 7-15 with a 4.71 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 2015.

If this is his last season in Chicago, Danks will want to go out in style. In an effort to produce better results, he and pitching coach Don Cooper have been talking about changing up his pitch selection.

“I really don’t want to give out what we are doing with John for the whole world,” Cooper said Thursday. “The bottom line is that we will depend on his strengths (more) than we have ever done before. It is up to you guys to figure out what his strengths are. That is it.”

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Relying on his own vast experience and the White Sox’s metrics breakdowns, Cooper figures to instruct Danks to use more curveballs with less emphasis on the change-up, as an MLB.com report recently referenced. Despite the preferred clandestine ways of the team, the eye test will soon determine whether the different approach will be effective.

Since having shoulder surgery in 2012, Danks — a one-time power pitcher — has had to live with a fastball that changes in effectiveness and velocity from start to start. Always a realist in his approach with each individual pitcher, Cooper downplays the radar gun readings for Danks.

“I am not worried about arm strength,” Cooper said. “He has what he has. I love velocity, but I would rather have 90 mph to the glove than 93 mph nowhere near it. John Danks has plenty of stuff to get people out if he is locating well. The key is hitting the glove with movement and changing speed.”

Danks was realistic about his first spring outing Thursday and the path his career has taken since his shoulder surgery.

“I would be lying to you if I said I haven’t been frustrated the last couple of years,” Danks said. “I think that is a given. I am not the first guy to have to make some adjustments. I feel I can do better than I have. I think I have shown flashes in the second half of last year. If I can make the adjustments we are hoping to make, I think my struggles will be something from the past.”

The battle for the fourth and fifth starters’ jobs will be between Danks, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

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Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.