CHICAGO | “The DL’s a lonely place,” Robin Ventura said Friday. “It’s miserable with everything that goes with that.”
So John Danks, after a year of woe, dramatically added both to his happiness quotient and his comradeship a few hours after White Sox manager Ventura’s description of baseball purgatory.
With his longtime Sox teammates both rooting and playing hard for him, and buddy Mark Buehrle cheering on from afar in Toronto, the long-shelved Danks came back as a craftsman in the Sox’s 4-3, 11-inning victory over the Miami Marlins.
Not cracking 91 mph on the radar gun, the surgery-rehabbed lefty proved, as Buehrle has for 12-plus seasons, that guile, control and location go a long way.
Despite their bedraggled status and talent-chopping owner, the Marlins are in good standing in the major leagues. And so the first Danks start since May 19, 2012, against the Cubs, punctuated by shoulder surgery Aug. 6, was successful on a cool Northwest Indiana Grand Slam Group Night.
He served up a Derek Dietrich two-run homer in the fourth. Reliever Matt Lindstrom let in the tying run Danks had put aboard in the seventh with a 3-2 lead, depriving him of a potential victory.
Otherwise, he was superb. With his top speed consistently in the high 80s-mph range, Danks gave up four hits, walked none and struck out five. He was a strike machine with 56 of his 76 pitches catching the zone.
“I think if the rest of my career if I could throw 87 to 90 (mph),” a joyous Danks said afterward, “and throw the ball exactly where I wanted to throw it for the most part, I would trade that in for a 92 or 93.
“I’ve seen a lot of 93 mph fastballs get hit hard and hit a long way. As I progress in my career, I understand that location means a lot more.”
Danks ought to bottle what he threw Friday. He came back just in time to boost a thinned-out starting rotation. Fellow lefty Chris Sale has what’s termed tendinitis, making his scheduled Tuesday start against the Cubs a question. Gavin Floyd’s had season-ending surgery. Hector Santiago was pressed into starting duty subbing for Sale on three days' rest.
Just the sight of Danks pitching won popularity contests at The Cell.
“It’s the highlight of my day,” Sale said beforehand. “I can’t wait. It’ll be awesome. I know what he’s had to go through mentally and physically. It’s a win either way.”
Letdowns were for another day as a determined left-hander completed the surgeon’s handiwork.
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.