CHICAGO -- There was a time one week ago when John Danks and the White Sox had quietly hoped the left-hander would return to the starting rotation this week against the Cubs.
He threw four innings and 61 pitches during a Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Charlotte, and the left shoulder strain that put Danks on the disabled list retroactive to May 20 seemed to just about be a past issue. Then, Danks felt abnormal soreness the next day and by Thursday, there was real concern.
The news certainly wasn't perfect when two MRIs done Monday by Midwest Orthopedics at Rush University Medical Central in Chicago, one with contrast and one without, revealed a mild Grade 1 strain of Danks' subscapularis muscle in his left shoulder. But it gave the veteran hurler comfort through understanding the problem.
"It's definitely good to have some answers and know for sure what we are dealing with," said Danks, prior to Tuesday's contest with the Cubs. "We are formulating a plan now to try to get back as soon as possible.
"I wish I had progressed a little further at this point. I kind of expected to be back by now. I just have to listen to my body and do what it says."
Tests showed no tendon or ligament damage, and his labrum is intact. The studies were conducted and evaluated by Dr. Greg Nicholson of Midwest Orthopedics, and the strain has shown improvement from the previous MRI he had on May 23.
After resting Wednesday and Thursday, Danks will begin a rehabilitation and strengthening program on Friday under the supervision of White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider. The White Sox will monitor his status with further diagnostic studies in the coming week.
Danks tentatively will begin another rehabilitation assignment in the next three to four weeks. By the time Danks, 27, returns to the mound, he could be inactive for two or three months.
All of the waiting for Danks is the hardest part. On the flip side, he also should be a fresh addition with this extended disabled list down time.
"You have to start looking at silver linings," Danks said. "In a perfect world, none of this would have happened. I would have been having a good year and we would still be in first. But it is what it is.
"Hopefully, I can be the guy to help anchor the staff when these guys start running out of gas. The other four guys certainly picked me up before I got hurt. I'd like to contribute in a positive way this year."
When Danks first received the diagnosis from Nicholson, he feared the worst. He now is hoping for the best and dealing with the present anguish of being sidelined.
"Dr. Nicholson and I talked for a long time yesterday," Danks said. "He definitely put me at ease. You hear the word tear and I start to think surgery. That scared me. For him to calm me down and tell me what's up, it made me feel better about it.
"Nobody wants to be on the DL, but you've got to play the hand you're dealt. It's tough. We are doing everything we can to get back as soon as possible."
Sale closely watched as All-Star break nears
CHICAGO -- Chris Sale admits that there have been talks with the White Sox staff to adjust his starting schedule and give him the maximum amount of rest before and after the All-Star break. Sale could be the first or second starter leading into the break and then the fifth man in the rotation after the Midsummer Classic on July 10.
This first-year starter, who has been dominant enough to be mentioned as the possible American League All-Star starter, also knows innings constraints will be placed on him at some point this season. For now, he's just working start to start and not worried about pitching toward some sort of perceived total.
"You don't want to set a number too high because you feel like you have to reach that," said Sale, who has never pitched more than 136 2/3 innings in a season and enters Friday's start at 80 1/3 innings. "If you set the number too low, then once you get there, you are done. But if you have stuff left in the tank, it's kind of a waste.
"So, we'll just take it day by day. When it comes up, we'll handle it and go from there."
White Sox probables for the Milwaukee series list Sale and then TBA for Saturday and Sunday. Those voids figure to be filled by Philip Humber and Jose Quintana, but the White Sox could throw Dylan Axelrod in the weekend mix to give Sale and Jake Peavy another extra day. Axelrod was called up from Triple-A Charlotte prior to Tuesday's game, replacing Zach Stewart, who returned to Charlotte after Monday's rough start.
Axelrod figures to work in long relief, so the man who made 11 starts for the Knights this season most likely won't get the immediate call. But the White Sox would like to give Sale and Peavy an extra day whenever possible for the next month or so.
"One of the ways to give them that extra break is to give them an extra day," manager Robin Ventura said. "How often that happens, we haven't looked at it that far down the road. For right now it's good."
"Obviously, I want to go out there as many times as I possibly can. That's just me," Sale said. "I know there is going to come a time in the season when we are going to have to sit down and map out what's going to happen. That's a little while away."
Konerko not concerned with June standings
CHICAGO -- The White Sox sit one-half game behind the Indians in the American League Central and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers following Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Cubs. But seasoned captain Paul Konerko doesn't pay much attention to the standings in late June.
"I don't think it really matters that we're in first or not right now," Konerko said before Tuesday's contest. "We've been playing pretty well, not great. There are a lot of things we could do better. It's just concentrating on that and trying to get ourselves better.
"It's not quite that time yet where you're staring at the scoreboard and seeing what other teams are doing. You're still in that mode of just trying to get as good as you can as a team and get lucky enough when it comes to that time in September where at that point, you pretty much are the team you are and you are looking at the scoreboard. There's a time and place for that."
Konerko called the club's 4-10 mark in its last 14 games one of those unavoidable lulls in the season, but "you try to end it as quick as you can."
Third to first
Despite a .167 average with the White Sox for Orlando Hudson, Eduardo Escobar hitting .182 and Brent Lillibridge checking in at .186 with a combined 13 RBIs, manager Robin Ventura plans to stick with that trio at third base until Brent Morel returns.
"We're going to try to make it go with Orlando," Ventura said. "Everybody can pinpoint little areas they'd like it to improve, but it has to improve with what we got. It's not coming from anywhere else." The White Sox are hitting .214 against the Cubs this season. They are 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and have left 17 on base over the last three games. Gordon Beckham has reached base safely in all 21 career games vs. the Cubs, producing a .338 average.