2/22/2014 6:25 P.M. ET
Danks focuses on cutter in second spring after surgery
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Danks never worried about his velocity during Spring Trainings prior to last year, a 2013 season in which he couldn't help but look at the speed reading to somewhat gauge progress made after season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery in August '12.
He won't worry about velocity when he takes the mound for Cactus League action this March, with his first start coming Saturday at home against the Indians. Instead, the focus for the left-handed veteran is on getting his cutter back in shape.
"That was the pitch I felt I struggled with the most last year," said Danks. "It wasn't nearly as sharp. It wasn't going to where I wanted it to go. I think being able to spin it a little more consistent, a little easier, it will help certainly."
For the record, Danks' average fastball velocity dipped from 91.6 mph in 2011 to 90.1 in '12 to 89.3 last year, according to Fangraphs. With as strong as Danks has felt through the first week of camp, that velocity figures to see an upturn in '14.
If there's not a noticeable immediate change, though, it won't be a deal breaker in regard to Danks' hope for success.
"I'm more worried about being able to throw the ball where I want," Danks said. "Obviously I anticipate [velocity] being back and would love it to be right back there. That's something that's not going to kill me if it's not. Being able to spin the ball and make the cutter be a lot sharper and more consistent is more important."
Rave reviews have come in for Danks during Week 1, from how he looks on the mound to how the ball is coming out of his hand to his physical health. But the White Sox have yet to even play an intrasquad game.
Facing opposing hitters stands as the next step for Danks as he reasserts himself in the rotation.
"I've passed the beginning test, and now it's going out there and facing another team," Danks said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to strike everybody out or throw perfect innings, but just being able to feel good and throw the ball where I want is more important."
Flowers in position for second Opening Day start
GLENDALE -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura wouldn't go as far as to state the starting catcher's job is Tyler Flowers' to lose before Cactus League action even begins. But it clearly looks as if last year's Opening Day starter behind the plate has a strong chance to repeat such an honor this year based upon Ventura's comments Saturday after the team's workout.
"More or less," Ventura said. "We know what we get with Tyler, and I like the way he calls games."
Flowers will be behind the plate Friday against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, making the pitch calls for staff ace Chris Sale in the White Sox Cactus League opener. Flowers homered in support of Sale for the only run in last year's regular-season 1-0 opener, but fortunes went downhill from there.
His shoulder soreness eventually led to September surgery, and his .195 average over 256 at-bats made his first year as a starter one to forget. Flowers isn't dwelling much on 2013.
"Most of us are trying to forget about last season and recognize some areas that hurt us last year personally and as a team and improve on those," Flowers said. "Other than that, I'm not thinking about it and I'm sure nobody else is either."
While the 28-year-old expects better results offensively, he knows that part of his game has to be separated from the most important aspect of handling the pitchers.
"I don't think people want a guy who hits .330 and doesn't catch worth a [darn] and doesn't care," Flowers said. "That's important for this position specifically. All positions, that's important too, but this one probably a little bit more than the others."
"Being able to separate it, some people are better at doing it than others, and he got to a point last year where it wore on him, and then injuries kind of took it from there," Ventura said. "The emphasis really for him, coming in here, he feels better offensively. He feels healthy, and No. 1 is how you handle the game, the pitchers, so you go from there."
Davidson's subtle tweaks show in defense at third
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Davidson has shown defensive development in the one month between January's mini-camp at Camelback Ranch and the first week of Spring Training.
"He looks great," White Sox third-base coach and infield instructor Joe McEwing said of the club's new third baseman. "He's made some minor adjustments in his pre-pitch and his footwork, trying to get them a little wider and lower. He's taken to it."
"I feel pretty confident with what I'm doing," Davidson said. "I felt really good coming into this year, even at mini-camp. I felt a lot more confident and smoother than I ever have."
Davidson terms the changes made as "very subtle."
They include trying to get off his pre-pitch setup a little quicker and get better reads, wider feet in his fielding position and having the left foot a little more out front when fielding the baseball to get more consistently accurate throws.
"Subtle stuff," Davidson said. "And it's been going well."
"It's been fun to see him progress from mini-camp when I saw him until now," McEwing said. "It's going to be fun to watch. And he wants the information. He wants to get better and he loves to work."
Garcia worries about violence in native Venezuela
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The wife and infant daughter of Avisail Garcia are with the White Sox right fielder in the United States. But he still worries about the rest of his family and his homeland of Venezuela with ongoing violent protests both for and against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
A recent Reuters report listed six dead in the turmoil.
"My mom, my dad, my sister, all of my family is there," Garcia said. "Hopefully everything gets better.
"They're far away from that [violence], but I worry about my country because a lot of people die. So that's not good. So let's see what happens. Hopefully everything gets better."
Garcia appreciates the opportunities afforded to him in the United States, but does not let Venezuela get too far out of his mind right now.
"It's tough, because you hear about the fighting ... they don't want the government. Hopefully no more people die," Garcia said. "Venezuela is a great country. If Venezuela is safe, I think it is one of the best countries in the world. A lot of beautiful beaches. A lot of stuff."
Third to first
• Andre Rienzo and Chris Beck will start Tuesday's intrasquad game at Camelback Ranch. Sale and Danks are scheduled to make the first two Cactus League starts Friday and Saturday, respectively.
• Ventura does not expect Gordon Beckham to get much work at shortstop during Spring Training. The team's starting second baseman played shortstop last year in Arizona and for two games during a 2013 rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte.
"We know he can do it if we need to do it," Ventura said. "It's not necessary to do it down here. Give other guys the opportunity to get ready to play."
• Garcia was supposed to have Saturday off after having an in-grown toenail worked on Friday, but he was out on the field working on his swing Saturday.
"Right now, a little pain," Garcia said. "But I think I'm going to be good for tomorrow. I didn't want to go home [and be off today]. I came here to work."