Notes: Danks working on a cut fastball
Erstad receives warm welcome; Uribe tends to ailing mother
ANAHEIM -- John Danks has done everything but win during his first five Major League starts for the White Sox. Even five of the team-high six home runs allowed by Danks have been of the solo variety, meaning he is attacking the strike zone.
But the young left-hander certainly has his sights set on something greater than solid performances on the mound. With that target of excellence in mind, Danks has been gradually trying to add a cut fastball into his pitching repertoire.
His work on this particular pitch began during regular-season side sessions and still is in its early stages, a steep learning curve that can be frustrating at times.
"I'm the type of guy who wants results right away, but it's a pitch I've never thrown before," said Danks of learning the cutter. "I'm still kind of experimenting with different ways to hold the ball and how to throw it.
"Coop [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] sees me getting frustrated and reminds me it won't happen overnight. It might take a while, and it's still a work in progress, for sure."
Danks has not been comfortable enough to use the new pitch in a game, basically experimenting with the cutter during three different side sessions and when he plays catch every day. But the 22-year-old understands how effective the pitch can be once it is mastered simply by watching fellow southpaw Mark Buehrle in action.
"Mark's funny, because he's one of those guys where he's so good, he doesn't know how he does it," said Danks of Buehrle, who has been lending his expertise to Danks in regard to the new pitch.
As he stands presently, Danks throws his sinker inside to left-handed hitters, but primarily uses a four-seam fastball in the same situation to a righty. The cutter will give Danks something that comes in a littler harder to a right-hander.
"It might look like a good fastball to hit and jam a righty," said Danks, who planned to work with John Wetteland on the pitch in Texas, before Wetteland left for Washington. "It's really just another weapon against right-handed hitters.
"When I do get it ironed out, it will be a big part of my pitching style. I'm excited to work on it now because it will help a lot."
Open-armed welcome: If there was any doubt as to the warm greeting awaiting Darin Erstad for his return to Anaheim on Friday night, those questions were answered when loud cheers came from the crowd as Erstad's name was announced amongst the White Sox starters. Erstad received a standing ovation as he stepped into the batter's box for the first time as an opposing player at Angel Stadium, with the veteran center fielder tipping his helmet and acknowledging the fans.
Erstad hit .286 for the Angels from 1996-2006 and was an integral part of the 2002 World Series champions. But Erstad already was reunited with some of his old friends and former teammates during Spring Training and then again during last weekend's three-game set, in which he finished 6-for-12 with three RBIs, so the customary on-field, meet-and-greet was avoided.
"The thing is that all those people over there know me," Erstad said. "They know I'm not going to be real chitty-chatty before the game. They understand that. And then after the game, that's fine. They understand the way I go about what I do."
Jim Thome was booed loudly by the Jacobs Field crowd when he returned to Cleveland for the first time last season, with the Indians' faithful perceiving Thome's exit to Philadelphia to be centered on the highest contractual offer. But Erstad left the Angels when there were concerns over his injured right ankle and finding an everyday fit for him on the field. The Angels organization also honored Erstad with a video montage on the Jumbotron, aided by Bob Seger's "Like a Rock," after the White Sox first at-bats.
"People have to remember how good he was and how hard he played for this organization," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Erstad. "This kid did everything he had, every single day for these fans."
Family matters: Juan Uribe probably won't be with the team until Tuesday's series opener at the Metrodome, as the White Sox starting shortstop returned to Chicago on Friday afternoon to tend to his ailing mother.
"They have some tests on her, and [found] some stuff. Hopefully, it's not that bad," Guillen said. "I talked to him about it, and she's the type of people who remind me of my parents. They don't like to go to the hospital, don't like to visit the doctors, until they feel very sick."
Around the horn: The White Sox cow-milking winning streak in Anaheim came to an end prior to Friday's game, when Arizona native Brandon Wood beat out White Sox reliever Boone Logan during the pregame festivities. Former White Sox pitchers Jim Parque and Mike Porzio were past winners. ... Erstad's stolen base on April 21 at Detroit was the last one attempted by the White Sox, covering nine games. The White Sox attempted 11 stolen bases in their first 13 games, but just two in the last 12. ... Guillen's crew is 3-4 this season after an off-day.
Down on the farm: Brian Anderson got off to a less-than-auspicious start in his return to Triple-A Charlotte, finishing a combined 0-for-7 during Richmond's doubleheader sweep of the Knights on Thursday. But Anderson bounced back with three hits Friday, as part of Charlotte's 6-3 victory over Richmond. Heath Phillips earned the win. ... Adam Russell hurled seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out six, as Double-A Birmingham shut down Tennessee by a 5-0 count on Thursday. Russell has allowed six hits and struck out 11 over his last 13 innings. Thomas Collaro, who leads the Southern League with 17 extra-base hits, launched his fifth home run and drove in three.
Up next: One month and five starts into the season, and Jon Garland (0-2, 3.93 ERA) still is looking for his first victory. The right-hander faces the Angels and John Lackey on Saturday, with a 2:55 p.m. CT scheduled first pitch.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.