05/08/2013 7:33 PM ET
Healthy Danks shifts to harnessing command
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The five walks issued by John Danks while pitching for Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday night left the left-hander to characterize his second Minor League rehab start as not being awful but not being great.
Then again, the major positive emanating from this five-inning, 92-pitch effort centers on the fact that Danks now is worried about problems germane to every other starting pitcher and not nearly as focused on his health. Danks might only need two more rehab starts before returning to the White Sox and completing the comeback from season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery last Aug. 6.
"Health-wise, I feel great," Danks told a pool reporter Wednesday from Columbus, where the Knights were playing. "Even right now, day after, I feel great. Between starts and on the side, everything feels good. Everything is progressing. I'm coming along. I'm on an upswing still."
"Now we're talking about games and sequences and pitches and baseball stuff," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Danks. "Before it was just, 'How you feeling?' Well, he is feeling better, and now it's trying to fine-tune things and be equipped enough to come up and win a Major League ballgame, and that's what we're still searching after."
Danks struck out four and allowed four hits, including a Matt LaPorta homer. His velocity was in the 88-89-mph range, topping out at 90 or 91. For a second straight rehab appearance, Danks also liked the way his cutter was working.
"Last year when I was active, I wasn't always able to make the cutter do what I wanted to," Danks said. "So to regain feel for that and make it do what I want, that's a big pitch for me, because it plays off my changeup big time."
As for that changeup, one of the things Danks needed to work on was getting greater velocity from his fastball to present a greater differential between the two pitches. Cooper pointed out Wednesday that Danks' changeup was never by the book, with a fastball at 92 mph and a change at 85 or 86.
"But the hitters showed us they're out front, because he's got a real good changeup," Cooper said. "He throws it with great hand speed and it had the hitters out front. The hitters will be the first ones to let you know if it's not enough."
Next up for Danks figures to be a Sunday start with Charlotte at home against Pawtucket, with one more Charlotte start to follow. If everything progresses accordingly, Danks could be back with the White Sox for the Marlins home series the weekend of May 24.
"All I know is he's closer, and it could be imminent, really -- but he has got a few more things to iron out," Cooper said. "It's been a big climb since he left Spring Training, and he's been climbing all winter. But to pitch and pitch effectively at the Major League level, you have to have things in order. He's getting closer, and hopefully real soon he'll have it all in order."
"If I take that [Tuesday] stuff down, with just halfway decent command, I think I have a chance," Danks said. "That's not too far from where I'm at normally."
Increase in power, but also K's, for De Aza
NEW YORK -- With six homers in 122 at-bats this season -- including his leadoff shot Wednesday against the Mets -- Alejandro De Aza is well on his way to shattering his single-season high of nine long balls. But at 40 strikeouts, one short of Adam Dunn's team lead, De Aza also will fly by his single-season worst of 109.
De Aza didn't have much of an answer for his increased swings and misses when asked before Wednesday's game, aside from the fact that he's not swinging for the fences.
"I never try hitting home runs. Sometimes I put on a good swing, hit the ball in front and it goes," De Aza said. "I'm just trying to put the ball in play.
"The only thing I'm going to say is I'm going to try not doing it," said De Aza of his strikeouts. "But that's something I can't control. I go out there I'm going to swing the bat. Sometimes I'm going to swing at good pitches, sometimes at bad pitches. Like I said, it's something I can't control."
Despite the strikeouts, De Aza is doing a good job of seeing pitches. Entering Wednesday's game, he ranked 15th in the Majors with 4.28 pitches per plate appearance, compared to his 3.97 average from 2012.
Santiago considers himself White Sox 'changeup guy'
NEW YORK -- How was Hector Santiago able to throw seven scoreless innings and strike out eight during Tuesday's starting effort in front of countless friends and family? The left-hander looked to his changeup for the answer.
"My changeup was probably the game-saver," said Santiago, who threw 27 changeups in the no-decision, according to MLB Gameday. "I couldn't get ahead with the fastball. So I relied on the changeup, whether it was 2-0 or 2-1, to get us back even.
"I threw it to lefties. I threw it in 3-2 counts. I threw it the entire time all game and it was a big pitch."
Santiago had the chance to meet up with 60 or 70 friends and family members after the game Tuesday and was moved by the in-game support he received from the group. Even with John Danks looking like he could return to the rotation in the next few weeks, there will be chances for Santiago's support crew to watch him as a starter.
In fact, Santiago believes a rotation with four southpaws could not only co-exist but be successful for the White Sox.
"For the most part, everybody is different," Santiago said. "[Chris] Sale is a slider guy, I'm a changeup guy, [Jose] Quintana is a cutter guy. Danks coming back, you don't know what to expect from him.
"I'm pretty sure, from what I heard, his change is pretty good and he's locating his fastball. Everybody has their own ways. It's just like you don't think about it as four lefties. We do, and the opposing team is probably going to stack up their guys with righties. Everybody can get guys out, whether it's a lefty or a righty."
Waldvogel named White Sox Honorary Bat girl
NEW YORK -- Sherri Waldvogel was named the White Sox winner of the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl contest, recognizing baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease.
Waldvogel will be honored at U.S. Cellular Field on Mother's Day this Sunday. This die-hard White Sox fan almost single-handedly spearheaded growth of the Chicago branch of the Young Survival Coalition. According to her nominating resume for the honor, she has done more on behalf of fundraising and advocacy for breast cancer research/awareness, while working and raising a family. Waldvogel also has worked with the Komen foundation, and has been a YSC peer counselor among her numerous contributions.
Cooper brings strike zone issue to attention
NEW YORK -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is not trying to call out umpires. But he believes the strike zone as it's currently called has an effect on pitchers getting injured by line drives back at the mound, such as what happened to Toronto's J.A. Happ on Tuesday night. Cooper has felt that way for some time.
"It's unfortunate, but I think I said about five or six years ago, you're going to see more of this. I think it's the strike zone," Cooper said. "Sometimes it's tough to get strikes inside, and that means you've got to throw more pitches away, and that means there's going to be more balls coming back at you, and I think that's held true.
"I'm not a prophet or anything like that, but I did think that a while ago. That was ugly to watch last night."
Cooper watched John Danks take a Stephen Drew line drive off the side of his head in a June 2011 contest in Arizona, but Danks stayed in the game and beat Arizona.
"I just think the zone can be tight at times, and if you're not getting some strikes inside, then you've got to throw them away," Cooper said. "When you're throwing them away, you could be a piñata."
Third to first
• Gavin Floyd's surgery Tuesday was successful, with his ulnar collateral ligament and flexor muscle both repaired during the procedure. Floyd's surgeon, Dr. David Altchek, said the surgery "could not have gone better," in a news release from the White Sox. Expected recovery time for Floyd is approximately 14-19 months.
• The White Sox have announced ticket information for people who had tickets to the two postponed home games from April.
For fans holding tickets for the game on April 19 vs. Minnesota, those tickets are good for Game 1 of the split doubleheader on Aug. 9 vs. the Twins at 1:10 p.m. CT. These tickets are good for the Aug. 9 game at 1:10 p.m. only and not redeemable for another game.
For fans holding tickets for the April 23 game vs. Cleveland, those tickets are essentially a gift certificate and can be used for any future regular-season game on a ticket-for-ticket basis.