By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) — Oh, so suddenly, the anticipation of the home opener at U.S. Cellular Field was vanquished. The positive vibes White Sox fans were feeling quickly diminished Friday afternoon.READ MORE: Chicago Police Alert Businesses Of Recent Burglaries In Pilsen
Left-hander John Danks, the fifth man in the rotation, took the mound for the team’s Chicago debut and was hit hard. He allowed seven earned runs and eight hits in five innings and greeted by boos in the first inning, leaving to more when his start has mercifully ended.
The role of a fifth starter can often be detailed with one task — give your team a chance to win the game.
“He just needs to be more consistent,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Danks. “He knows that.”
Consistency has been lacking for Danks now for quite some time. His ERAs for the past three seasons: 4.75 in 2013, followed by 4.74 and then 4.71 last season.
Danks is now in the final season of a five-year, $65-million deal awarded in December of 2011, at the time making him the highest-paid player in White Sox history. It seemed reasonable at the time, given the upside and youth of Danks, but it has proved to be a miscalculation by management.
Looking for a fresh start in 2016, Danks was crushed by Cleveland, which jumped to a 5-0 lead early in the second inning and added on with two in the fifth inning. Danks believed that the advice of catcher Dioner Navarro in spring training would help eliminate tipped pitches and aide his game. On Friday, he looked like the same, struggling pitcher.
“The best ones are consistent,” Danks said, looking around the league. “The average ones are up and down. It’s as simple as that. Everyone in Major League Baseball is capable of pitching a good game. It’s that elite pitchers that do it on a regular basis.”READ MORE: Local Businesses Hope For Similar Outcome Of Shoppers For Small Business Saturday
Back in 2011, the White Sox paid Danks be a key piece for their rotation. Danks has a 4.78 FIP since signing the big deal, which ranks fifth-worst in baseball for pitchers with a minimum 300 innings pitched.
The difference for Danks this season is that the White Sox aren’t counting on him to deliver at the top of the rotation. That’s the task of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and even 23-year-old Carlos Rodon. In fact, the future of Danks remains uncertain.
The White Sox embark on a 2016 in which the collective roster feels it’s in position to compete. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn on Friday alluded to his position for changes if deemed necessary. Even before Friday’s start, Danks was sitting on the hot seat.
First-round draft pick Carson Fulmer was sent to Triple-A Charlotte midway through spring training, with the White Sox feeling one of their prized prospects needed more seasoning before a potential big league debut. They also made the move feeling comfortable with Mat Latos and Danks rounding out the rotation.
Should Danks continue to struggle during the early part of this regular season, he may force management’s hand with Fulmer, the 22-year-old Vanderbilt product.
Danks so desperately needed a strong start to his 2016 and to find that rhythm in his game. Instead, his season debut turned into another struggle, with boos as he walked off the mound.
“I got to get ready for the next one,” Danks said. “That’s just the way it goes. I’ll do my best to forget about this.”MORE NEWS: 'The WasteShed' Art Store, Selling Recycled Supplies For Less, Opens Second Location In Evanston
The pressure’s on Danks in 2016 — not only to earn that next contract, but even just to stay in the White Sox’s plans for this season.