By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — A tip from catcher Dioner Navarro to left-hander John Danks three outings ago has turned the veteran pitcher around.
During Danks’ start on March 13, he was getting shelled and not understanding what he was doing wrong. That’s when his recent luck changed.
“Dioner has been around awhile,” Danks said. “He has seen me and faced me. If he says something, I don’t need to look at it on video. He told me exactly what I was doing. We fixed it, and it has not been an issue since.”
Danks was holding his glove in different positions for grips on fastball and breaking balls, tipping his pitches to hitters, sources said.
The improved results continued Wednesday, as Danks threw six shutout innings against the Padres in a 6-1 victory against the White Sox. Danks is in line to be the team’s fifth starter when the season opens.
“I don’t care what number I am labeled,” Danks said.” By the time you get to the second week of April, it is all mixed up anyway. I just want to be a guy that every time out helps us win a ballgame.”
In 2015, Danks posted a 7-15 record with a 4.71 ERA, following a 4.74 ERA in 2014 and 4.75 ERA in 2013. In Cactus League play, Danks had allowed 13 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings during his first three starts, including giving up eight runs in that March 13 start. He’s since pitched 11 shutout innings, earning the victory in both outings.
Danks will be happy if he can throw 200 innings in his role this season.
“If you’re good enough to be out there and pitch 200 innings, then I will live with whatever the other numbers are,” he said. “You must be doing something right if you’re out there that much.”
Navarro was matter of fact about the tipping incident. Before coming to the White Sox this offseason, he was 9-for-23 against Danks, including three home runs. As a hitter facing Danks, the struggles became apparent.
“I noticed it against the Diamondbacks,” Navarro said. “That is my job as a catcher — to see those things. I think his last two outings have been great. I know he will continue to do it the whole season.”
An American League scout offered the following scouting report on Danks:
“He was working the ball around great today. His sinker was good and changeup mostly controlled. He pitches backwards, using his fastball in breaking ball counts. That generates ground balls and surprise punch-outs. He did not throw many curves. I suspect because of the dry air in Arizona, he has put that pitch on the shelf until he heads back north. The guy knows how to pitch. He just has to have good command to get through six decent innings.”
Should Danks make strong outings a regularity in 2015, he will have Navarro to thank in large part for it.
As for the new White Sox catcher, it’s all just part of the job.
“I pick up these things from being around awhile,” Navarro said. “These things happen more than you think. That is what spring training is for. We are all working on something. Now is the time to clean it up. When the season starts and I start putting up numbers, then I will ask for a raise.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.