Confident Danks returns to Sox rotation

CHICAGO -- The new-look John Danks had an impressive return to the major leagues Friday, using a little less velocity but pinpoint control to confidently announce he is back.

After a 370-day break from pitching in the major leagues because of a serious shoulder injury, Danks retired the first seven batters he faced and went six-plus innings in the Chicago White Sox’s eventual 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins in 11 innings.

The left-hander was long gone when the game was decided, but this is a no-decision he had no problem with since his entire theme Friday was just about being a part of the team again. That the White Sox posted a team victory by getting everybody involved was only fitting.

“I’ve been away from the team for a long time,” Danks said. “I’d pop in here and there periodically, but to actually get out there and pitch for the White Sox and be one of the guys, it was a fun night. It was a great night. I’m glad we got the win. I’m glad things went as well as they did.”

Danks won’t apologize for the fact that he was matched up against the team last in the major leagues in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, nor does he have to.

He touched 91 mph on the radar gun but was around 89-90 mph most of the night, slower than the 94 mph he used to flash on occasion. But even before he took the mound, he knew that control and changing speeds would be his best asset.

“If the rest of my career, if I can throw 87-90 [mph] and throw the ball exactly where I want to throw it for the most part, I would trade that in for 92 or 93,” Danks said. “I’ve seen a lot of 93 mph fastballs get hit hard and a long way.

“So, as I progress in my career, I understand that location means a lot more. I’ve said that a lot, all along the way. As long as I can throw the ball where I’m trying to throw it and make the ball do what I want it to do, I feel like I have a good chance.”

Despite Danks’ absence and a season-ending injury to Gavin Floyd, the starting staff has been the most consistent unit of the White Sox this season. Now the group is bolstered by a proven commodity.

“That was more than what I think anybody could hope for, as far as getting that deep into the game,” captain Paul Konerko said about Danks. “There were a lot of swings and misses, a lot of nice pitches he made. I imagine that’s a real good one to build off of for him.

“Everybody's happy for John. Everybody likes John a lot. To be out that long when you have a career-threatening-type surgery, it's nice to see a guy get back out there and have some success.”

While Danks tried to refine his curveball while he was on his rehab assignment, his most important pitch Friday was his changeup.

“He’s going to have to have that and be able to throw strikes with it, which he did,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think he did enough with his fastball, too. That’s what he plays with, and you’re going to have to spot both of those to be effective, and he did that.”

His next test will come Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the venue where he pitched May 19 of last year before calling it a season with his shoulder injury. Another quality outing would further announce that he is back and ready to make the rotation even better.

“From where I was in spring training to here, it’s night and day,” Danks said. “We had the plan all along in spring training to be ready by the first of the season, and it just didn’t happen that way.

“We were at the mercy of my shoulder, and I feel like we’re at a point where I feel comfortable and I’m able to throw the ball where I want. Stuff’s coming. I feel like I have plenty of stuff to compete. You can accuse me of a lot of things, but [not] competing isn’t one of them. I’m going to go out there and hopefully give us a chance to win.”