Notes: Danks maintains confidence
Righty will get one more warmup for season Sunday
TUCSON, Ariz. -- John Danks became the somewhat surprising winner of the White Sox fifth starter battle by throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters this spring.
But if Danks pitches as he did during Wednesday's start in an 8-0 loss to Arizona, walking six over 4 2/3 innings, then this great Cactus League story will be missing its storybook regular-season ending. Nobody understands that point more than Danks, but if there was any doubt as to Ozzie Guillen's short leash with all of his pitchers, the White Sox manager made it clear during his postgame comments.
"Disappointing day? I'll say it. I don't care if he's a rookie or if he has two days in the big leagues," Guillen said of Danks. "I don't care if he's two years old or 45 years old. He's in the big leagues.
"When I went to the mound, I told him your biggest ammunition here is throwing strikes, and he couldn't find the plate," Guillen added.
Danks next trip to the mound comes Sunday in Tucson, as he stays back to pitch in a Minor League game on three days' rest, while the rest of the team finishes exhibition play with two games in Atlanta. The left-hander will come to Chicago on Sunday night to be part of Monday's season opener, followed by his first Major League start on Saturday, April 7, against the Twins and in front of a national television audience on FOX.
During a spring in which Danks walked only four over 16 2/3 previous innings, the 21-year-old left-hander cringed at every pass he issued. After walking two in the first inning and one each in the second through fifth on Wednesday, with three of those walks coming around to score, Danks ripped apart his own subpar effort. But he also refused to let it destroy the confidence built up over the past six weeks.
"It was ugly," Danks said. "There wasn't really anything positive you can take from it. It was just plain ugly and unacceptable, and if I happen to do this at the big-league level, it will be a short stint here.
"But I don't plan on doing this. You have to put it behind you and move on. Luckily, I'm coming back on short rest."
Pitching coach Don Cooper explained to Danks that he was getting a little ahead of himself and flying open on delivery, according to the left-hander, and Danks added that the ball was coming out of the side of his hand even when he was zeroing in on location. Guillen agreed with Danks that Wednesday's start should be quickly put to rest, with a greater focus on the strike zone during Sunday's start.
"He impressed me enough to make me say, 'OK, I'll just turn the page on that one,' because he did a tremendous job in Spring Training,'" Guillen said. "In the meanwhile, I'm not going to let that thing slide ... I'm going to let him know how I feel, let him know, 'You make this ballclub because you're throwing strikes. Don't forget that.'"
"Hopefully, I'll go out there and dominate on Sunday, and be ready to go against the Twins on Saturday," Danks added.
Bright lights, big performance: Even though Bobby Jenks fanned two over 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday, the burly closer knows plenty of doubters who wonder how his 7.56 ERA in the spring and velocity hovering in the 94 mph range will translate in the regular season. Jenks heard those same rumblings last spring, when he posted a 6.55 ERA over 11 games and had the same speed on his fastball.
The answer for those critics came during 67 games in 2006, when he became the third pitcher in franchise history to save 40 games in a single season. Jenks' confidence in locating his pitches might not have been as high at the start of spring as it is now, but he doesn't doubt he will continue to excel as a Major League closer.
"Not even close, and I never will," said Jenks, when asked about having doubts in his ability. "The last week, I've got that confidence back where I can start challenging guys again. I'm able to throw my fastball where I want now."
Guillen said Wednesday the only reading he wants to see with Jenks is zeroes, as in scoreless innings; the the manager isn't worried about juicy 99-mph radar gun readings. As for outsiders' concerns in regard to Jenks' future success, the 26-year-old right-hander has a direct answer.
"I don't care," said Jenks with a wry smile. "People will question me if I spend 10 years in this game. It's always going to be around.
"You would like to say, 'Kiss my [rear end],' but they are going to say it anyways. I don't need to prove anything. I already have. I just have to continue doing what I'm doing."
Urbina reaction: Guillen was understandably stunned by the 14-year prison term handed down in Venezuela on Wednesday to Ugueth Urbina, the former Major League closer and close friend of the White Sox manager. Urbina was sentenced for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005.
"It was a shock," said Guillen of the sentence given to Urbina, 32, who Guillen spoke with prior to the start of Spring Training. "It was a tough day in my family; it's a tough day for us.
"He's one of my best friends, but I have to worry about the White Sox before I worry about Uguey Urbina. I think we did everything in our power to get something set up, or tried to see different scenarios in the case. It really surprised a lot of people in our country.
"I talked to a few people and they're in shock," Guillen added. "I just finished up talking to his lawyer down there. I was talking to my brother-in-law, he was the one who was closest to the case. I don't believe he will get 14 years; I doubt it."
Guillen added Urbina, who already has served more than one year, will appeal the decision.
Around the horn: Juan Uribe was scratched from Wednesday's starting lineup as a precautionary measure for his strained right calf. ... After debating a batting-order change to break up three left-handed hitters at the top, Guillen plans on keeping Jim Thome third, Paul Konerko fourth and Jermaine Dye fifth after meeting with some of his hitters Wednesday morning. "As far as the middle of the lineup, I'm sure we'll pretty much be set," Dye said.
Up next: While the bulk of the White Sox 25-man roster breaks camp from Tucson on Thursday and heads to an exhibition game at night in Birmingham, Jon Garland gets the final Cactus League start against Colorado with a 2:05 p.m. CT first pitch at Tucson Electric Park. Jim Thome also will be in the lineup against the Rockies. Minor Leaguer Adam Russell will start for the Sox in the 6:05 p.m. CT game in Birmingham.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.