Danks looking to make fresh start in 2013
White Sox lefty hopes to be over arm problems by Spring Training
CHICAGO -- For the sake of a family-suitable tale, we'll call the morning of May 20 an "oh, no" moment for John Danks' 2012 season.
Of course, Danks added a few more expletives when the pain in his shoulder began, following a shutout effort covering 6 1/3 innings the day before at Wrigley Field.
"I felt well enough to pitch that Saturday [May 19], and Sunday I couldn't move my arm," Danks said in a recent interview with MLB.com. "Literally, I tried to go out and play catch at 20 feet and couldn't do it.
"I'd say that was the point. That was my, 'Oh [no]' moment or whatever you want to write."
That 83-pitch effort against the Cubs basically brought an end to a personal two-year run that Danks would like to forget. Actually, that end came on Aug. 6, after extensive rehab didn't work on Danks' troublesome left shoulder and successful arthroscopic surgery was performed to repair a capsular tear and minor debridements of the rotator cuff and biceps.
While the White Sox were battling for their playoff lives, resulting in a late-season fade where they lost a three-game lead over Detroit in the American League Central race with 15 games to play and fell short of the postseason, Danks was left as a highly-interested bystander. But the post-surgery situation became much easier to handle than the almost three-month period following the Cubs start, where the rehab work simply wasn't producing major improvement.
"There was definitely a lot of soul searching and times where I hated baseball," Danks said. "There were times where I couldn't wait to get to the field to try to work hard at it. There were times I dreaded coming to the field.
"It was one of those deals. It's part of the game. You stick around long enough, there's going to be highs and lows and hopefully this is as low as it gets. We'll start that climb up and get on one of those highs."
Since the August surgery, Danks has been slowly traveling on what he hopes will be one of those upward climbs. All the limitations have been taken off of the southpaw during his rehab work, and a target date of Nov. 1 to start throwing leaves him optimistic to be ready at the start of Spring Training.
Pitching coach Don Cooper points out that Mets ace Johan Santana had a similar sort of procedure costing him the 2011 campaign, and Santana's 2012 body of return work came to a close on Aug. 17 -- albeit with the Mets out of contention. The White Sox will be constantly aware of Danks' workload, especially with his throwing program starting two months earlier than most hurlers, but Cooper believes Danks can come back strong.
"I'll say this: If Jake Peavy can come back from what he came back from, anything seems to be possible," Cooper said. "So, yeah, we are counting on him to come back and pitch again for us.
"Now when that is, I mean, I would have to do a little bit more research. Hopefully it's Spring Training and we go. We'll know as time unfolds where he's at and what he's doing."
Before Danks was shut down, he struggled mightily through most of the eight starts leading up to that Cubs' effort. Danks fanned just 30 in 53 2/3 innings and had a 5.70 ERA. The White Sox Opening Day starter, taking said role from Mark Buehrle, his mentor, explained the injury didn't come about on one pitch in particular against the Cubs and he always was healthy enough to compete if he took the baseball.
Cooper believes Danks' shoulder hampered his '12 starts, even before it was diagnosed.
"I'm not sure he wasn't hurt during that time, to tell you the truth," Cooper said. "It's not something that happened on one pitch. It may have been the whole thing right there.
"He wasn't consistently throwing strikes. Too many walks and things like that. Behind in the count, and the stuff wasn't quite the same. I do happen to believe that that's something that had been there and kept wearing on him. He gets a pass on all that, as far as I'm concerned. I don't know if he was healthy, and my guess is he probably wasn't."
Health was not an issue for Danks in 2011, when he went winless through his first 11 starts and sat at 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA going into his first victory against the Mariners on June 6. That season ended far better than it started, as Danks concluded at 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA, but even when he got going and managed to win three straight starts in June, a strained right oblique knocked him out of action.
The injury-influenced 2012 struggles also carried the weight of a five-year, $65-million extension agreed upon during the past offseason. While Danks wants to live up to the faith placed in him by the organization, he's not driven by money.
His equation is hard work during the offseason equals being ready for the start of the 2013 season. He is also hoping to replace those "Oh, no" instances with plenty of "It's all good" situations.
"By no means, have I enjoyed the last two years. There's nothing really to enjoy, you know," said the 27-year-old, newly-engaged Danks. "I've just been bit by bad luck, and it's really nothing I can do about it now but put my head down and try to get ready for next year. It's a 'Let's go get them' kind of thing."