03/15/2013 7:50 PM ET
White Sox optimistic, but won't rush Danks
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In the matter of John Danks breaking camp as part of the White Sox starting rotation, pitching coach Don Cooper remains optimistic but realistic.
"John is aware [that] if he's ready, he's going to be with us. If he's not, we'll give him more time," said Cooper of Danks, after the southpaw threw 61 pitches over 3 1/3 innings Thursday in Tempe during his third Cactus League start since arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder last Aug. 6. "It's not something we are going to rush or force.
"We can't say, 'Hey, we need you to throw harder.' We have no control over that. All we have control over is going out there and having our sideline [sessions] and going out in the game. Heck, he threw  pitches yesterday, so that's a plus in itself. He's climbing, making baby steps forward.
"Now, it's going to be, 'Do we have enough time to get it all together for him to make his first start?'" Cooper said. "That's what we are kind of watching. Nobody knows the answer to that. But there are positives there, for sure."
Cooper mentioned that Danks' velocity topped out at 89 mph against the Angels, while adding that he expected Danks to have ups and downs during this preparatory phase. Danks was good in his first outing against the Giants, not so strong against the Diamondbacks last Saturday, and then better facing a first-rate Angels lineup.
The fact that Danks is already back pitching stands as the most significant positive for Cooper. Catcher Tyler Flowers added a few more complimentary notes where Danks was concerned.
"This is the third time I caught him, and there is definitely progression there," Flowers said. "The first time, his cutter wouldn't get any action. The changeup, he was having a hard time getting them down and getting that downward action on it like he used to have. And I've seen that progress over time.
"Yesterday, his cutter was pretty good, as far as the action. His changeup, for the most part, was pretty good except for a couple he left up. The big step now is trying to command those pitches and locate them a little more effectively. He has the action back. That seems to be the first step. Now it's kind of fine-tuning. Stuff-wise, he's pretty darn close to what he was."
An upbeat attitude concerning Danks still has come with a White Sox Plan B in case he's not quite ready, as both Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod are getting their work as potential rotation replacements. The White Sox could bring back their Opening Day starter on regular rest on April 6 because of an April 2 off-day, but they would need a fifth starter on April 7 at home against Seattle.
That alignment hasn't really been discussed yet, according to Cooper. Other starters are building just like Danks, but in Danks' case, he might not have to build as much to be ready.
"John is a guy I'm thinking, 'Let's get him ready to pitch six innings.' I'm not thinking we got to get him up to 115 pitches here," Cooper said. "This is a post-surgery guy. So we've got two to three starts left that match up to where, yeah, if he can make all those pitches and stay out there long enough, you know what?
"Listen, he's frustrated by the results. But this is a guy that's working to come back, and after surgery. ... We've got time left, and we'll see."
Floyd starting to feel comfortable with routine
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The third Cactus League trip to the mound for Gavin Floyd went about as well as he could have hoped, with one run allowed on four hits over 5 1/3 innings, while striking out five without a walk Friday in a 15-3 victory over the Cubs.
That third start also has the right-hander pushing more toward regular-season mode, with Opening Day a little over two weeks way.
"You get in that routine," Floyd said. "So you kind of start getting, 'Here's Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4' and then game day.
"At the beginning of Spring Training, it was kind of strange, in a way, because everybody was playing and the starting rotation was not pitching. You were pitching on the side. You get in the routine and you get in every five days, it starts getting back to where the routine feels comfortable."
Floyd felt everything was working for him against the Cubs, featuring good command of his offspeed stuff and even mixing in a few changeups.
"I felt like I was using everything, and that's usually a good place to be, working both sides of the plate," Floyd said. "It was fun."
There also has been no unusual elbow pain for Floyd, a symptom which produced two disabled-list stints for him last year.
"Doesn't have the same feeling, that's for sure," said Floyd of the normal spring soreness. "When you're building strength and going longer, there's always going to be some kind of fatigue or soreness, but nothing out of the ordinary."
Crain fine after line-drive scare in Minors game
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jesse Crain returned to the mound in a Minor League game Friday afternoon, testing his strained right adductor, but didn't escape completely unscathed from his one inning.
According to White Sox manager Robin Ventura, Crain was hit by the first batter faced with a line drive in the right hip. He still finished the frame without issue.
"It's one thing after another," said Ventura with a laugh, as the White Sox confirmed Crain was fine. "Hopefully he gets home safely."
Crain has made one Cactus League appearance, on Feb. 25, because of the adductor injury. But that lack of work doesn't have White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper worried about the veteran right-hander's regular-season preparedness.
"I know we have enough time to get a reliever ready," Cooper said. "Jesse is going to take the ball 60 to 70 times. I didn't need 20 down here in the first place. It certainly would be nice to get him out here and get him going."
Back with White Sox, Stewart hoping to stick
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Since June 23, 2012, Zach Stewart has been with the White Sox, Red Sox, Pirates and then the White Sox again. And as he gets ready for a Sunday start in Surprise against the Royals, Stewart is hoping he has found a home.
"It has been crazy, but it is good to be back here," said Stewart, who gets the start Sunday with Jose Quintana starting in a B Game. "Right now, you just go out and pitch as good as you possibly can and see where the chips fall. Go from there and see what they tell you. Not much you can do other than compete and do your best."
Stewart was traded from the White Sox to the Red Sox as part of the Kevin Youkilis trade on June 24. He was traded to the Pirates on Nov. 28 and then claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Jan. 24.
Through five Cactus League outings and eight innings pitched, Stewart has allowed one run and struck out eight without a walk. He will start the 2013 season as part of the Triple-A Charlotte rotation, and he hopes to carry over his improved mound focus to regular action.
"Well, it was just this whole offseason playing catch, and then when I started working into my side [sessions], it was focusing down and making sure to finish pitches," Stewart said. "Another thing for me that comes from the focus is I'm getting ahead of guys, and that sets me up in better situations.
"I'm not really getting in deep counts with guys and wasting a lot of pitches. I'm getting ahead and making them make a move."
Third to first
• Following Friday's 15-3 victory over the Cubs, the White Sox optioned RHP Andre Rienzo and RHP Jhan Marinez, C Josh Phegley and OF Jared Mitchell to Charlotte. With the moves, the White Sox have 41 players remaining in Major League camp: 21 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and six outfielders.
Mitchell made a highly positive impression over the past month, hitting .387.
• Tyler Flowers was scratched from Friday's starting lineup against the Cubs as a precautionary measure due to a stiff back. He was replaced by Hector Gimenez.
• White Sox assistant hitting coach Harold Baines celebrated his 54th birthday on Friday.