Danks could be one start from a return

CHICAGO -- Saying he had great command and a curveball that hasn’t been this good in six seasons, John Danks was upbeat about his latest minor league rehab start.

The Chicago White Sox left-hander, who is one week from the one-year anniversary of his last game in the major leagues, hopes he might only need one more start in the minors before returning to the big league club.

“I haven’t heard anything specifically,” Danks said after pitching Triple-A Charlotte to a 6-4 victory over Pawtucket on Sunday. “I don’t think I need too much more. I’m hoping I have another good one in the next [outing]. I’m certain me and [general manager] Rick [Hahn] will be in touch and talk about that. I’m not very far off.”

Danks gave up three runs, but only two earned, over six innings while throwing 101 pitches. He was touched for seven hits with five strikeouts and was disappointed about allowing three walks.

“Their three, four hitters, especially their four-hole hitter, he was a guy you don’t let beat you, so I’m going to throw pitches up here and hope he gets himself out,” Danks said. “You hate to do that in the minor league game, but I’m trying to win a ballgame for the Charlotte Knights.”

Helping him pull off that victory was his brother Jordan, who had a two-run single in the first inning and three RBIs in the game.

Danks had shoulder surgery on Aug. 6 of last season and is still working on regaining his old velocity that topped out in the mid-to-low 90 mph range. The White Sox did not have a report on his velocity from Sunday, and Danks claimed it was anywhere from 87-91 mph, although he did say it was hard to see the radar readings on the scoreboard.

“[Pitching coach Don Cooper] and the organization puts a lot more emphasis on [velocity] than I am,” Danks said. “I have to be able to play off it with a change of speed, so it’s a big part. But I think I can be just as effective at 88 [mph] than I would be at 93. I’m throwing the ball where I want to throw it rather than putting a lot behind the ball.”

If developing into a complete pitcher is the goal, then the presence of a solid curveball will help.

“It’s been a pitch I don’t use as an outpitch,” he said. “It’s a pitch I try to get strike one with, but today, I was able to use the curve as an outpitch. It’s another big step in the right direction. I made a lot of strides.”

Danks is now expected to get a fifth day of rest before his next outing, which would put him in Charlotte’s game on May 18 at Buffalo. That could set him up for a return to the major leagues the following week. With an off day in the White Sox’s schedule May 23, Danks could make his season debut May 24 against the light-hitting Miami Marlins.

“At any given point [during the rehab process] I’ve had as good of a cutter and changeup [as ever], but I need to get a lot more consistent,” Danks said. “I don’t feel like I’m far off, and know my stuff is there. For the most part, I can make the ball do what I want. It’s about pulling it all together, giving myself a chance.”