Sox need complete effort from Danks
Lefty starter bounces back after rough beginning Tuesday
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The unofficial pitch count for John Danks in his start Tuesday against the Padres checked in at around 80, covering 5 1/3 innings.
It was a longer stretch than the White Sox expected after Danks struggled through a three-run, 35-pitch opening frame.
"He pitched one more inning than we thought after the first inning," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Danks. "Good thing for him after the first inning he threw very well. I wasn't too excited about the first inning."
"Yeah, I was pretty terrible," added Danks of the first inning. "It wasn't so much stuff. I came in after the first inning and said I have better stuff than giving up those three runs. It was just a case of getting ahead of guys and letting them off the hook."
Danks opened his fourth Cactus League start by firing a called third strike past Brian Giles. But that strikeout was followed by walks issued to former teammate Tadahito Iguchi and Paul McAnulty, with Tony Clark then doubling home Iguchi.
After Khalil Greene went down swinging, Michael Barrett doubled home two more runs before Robert Fick grounded out to shortstop Orlando Cabrera to end the inning. It was an up-and-down frame, but also one that the left-hander put behind him quickly.
For the afternoon, Danks matched Javier Vazquez's Cactus League team-high seven strikeouts and didn't walk another hitter. In fact, Danks allowed just a Clark single until McAnulty's long home run leading off the sixth.
"His velocity was good, was climbing," Guillen said. "He was attacking the zone better. He was ahead of the count. He [went from] making me mad to a good outing because he had a rough first inning."
"Coop made it pretty clear that's not acceptable," added Danks of a talk he had with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper after the first inning. "We know that. From there on out, I felt great."
On the heels of last year's 6-13 rookie effort, with a 5.50 ERA, expectations certainly will rise for the soon-to-be 23-year-old southpaw. Last year, Danks was just happy to make the team as the rotation's fifth starter. Entering the 2008 campaign, Danks stands firmly as the No. 3 pitcher behind Mark Buehrle and Vazquez.
Adding a cutter, which Danks used liberally against San Diego, should help the youngster in his second full season. The White Sox careful usage of Danks down the stretch in 2007 also should leave him fresh and ready to go when he takes the mound at Jacobs Field on April 3.
That start at the home of the defending American League Central champions has already begun to play out in Danks' mind. It figures to look much more like his last four innings on Tuesday, as opposed to his uneven first.
"We don't expect him to win 22-23 games, but we expect him to have a good outing," Guillen said. "He's a big part of the rotation, and he's got to produce."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.