CHICAGO | It was a tale of two games rolled into one for the White Sox’s John Danks on Wednesday.
In the first “game,” over the first two innings, the veteran lefty was no better than a batting-practice pitcher. He gave up four runs and seven hits.
Then the other “contest” began. The Twins would not get another run or hit the rest of the game as Danks retired the last 16 hitters he faced from the final out of the second in the Sox’s 4-3 loss.
“I felt like the first few innings, they were almost sitting off-speed on me,” he said. “I feel I threw a lot more fastballs from the third inning on. The reason I didn’t make the adjustment earlier than that was I thought it was just bad pitches. They weren’t where I wanted to throw them. I noticed there were less and less good swings (at the fastball).”
With 12 of the 16 consecutive outs via infield grounders, Danks achieved an optimum in his performance – “a ground-ball machine that’s throwing strikes and working quick.”
But the in-game transformation was no moral victory for Danks, not when he’s 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA. After undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in Aug. 6, 2012, Danks feels the time is long past for proving he’s healthy enough to pitch. Results are the only things that count in his mind now.
“That was my first start in May,” Danks said of proving his post-surgical fitness to pitch “We’re not in instructional league here. We’re judged on our success. Wins and losses are all that matters here. I wouldn’t have come back when I did if I didn’t think I could help this team win ballgames. Certainly, it’s not been fun.”
The beat-downs of 2013 have stuck in Danks’ craw. He’ll have a short offseason before he goes back to work with Sox pitching coach Don Cooper in an attempt to return to his old form next season.
“In a normal offseason, I wouldn’t touch a ball until New Year’s,” Danks said. “My main focus in talking with (trainer) Herm (Schneider) and Coop is to make sure I don’t take any steps back. I’ll take a little bit of time off. I’ll continue to play catch. I think I’ll spend some time in Nashville to be with Coop (at the latter’s offseason home).”
Danks could not have pitched worse than his last three starts. He had allowed 17 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .403 over that span. Danks has just 11 quality starts out of his 22 total. In five outings, he has allowed six or more earned runs.
And in an amazing statistic, Danks is the only big-league starter who has allowed more homers (28) than walks (27).
“I don’t look at him as a hurt pitcher that’s coming back on any kind of pitch count,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You look back to where he was last year and where he’s at now, there’s progress made. Regardless of the result (Wednesday), he’s still better off now than he was in spring training.”