3/26/2014 8:20 P.M. ET
Danks has come a long way in one year
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was March 19, 2013, when John Danks' comeback from season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery the previous August took a major detour. He allowed 10 runs on 11 hits over 3 1/3 innings, walking two and not striking out a Reds hitter in Goodyear, leading the White Sox to keep him in extended camp at the season's outset.
Truly, what a difference a year makes in Danks' case.
"I pitched a little better against them today," said Danks with a smile.
Danks threw 102 pitches and allowed just one earned run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings, fanning five and walking one, on Wednesday during a 9-5 victory over the Reds. It was a strong finish to a strong Spring Training that has the White Sox and their hurler hoping he can be a major boost to the team's 2014 success.
"A lot closer to where I was than where I've been the last couple of years," Danks said. "I feel like I can be a lot more aggressive with it. I really learned how to use a curveball last year, so I'm going to use that.
"Obviously, you never want to be down 3-0, 2-1. But I feel like I can reach back or throw a cutter and get a chance to get an out."
That cutter's return, coupled with an uptick in velocity, has Danks targeting a return to the pitcher who threw at least 200 innings in 2009 and 2010 and had an ERA below 3.80.
Nieto excited for Major League experience
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It has been two days since Adrian Nieto got the news from manager Robin Ventura that he would break camp as the team's second catcher, barring an unforeseen event before Sunday's official announcement.
The 24-year-old still finds the information hard to process.
"That still hasn't hit me, to tell you the truth," Nieto said. "I still have a couple of games left, so I have to go out there and finish strong. It was definitely what I wanted to hear at the end of camp.
"This is one goal I accomplished. I have to continue. I'm blessed to be one of the 60 guys to have a catching spot in the big leagues."
Nieto was a Rule 5 selection from the Nationals and has to stay on the 25-man active roster all season or else be offered back to Washington if he clears waivers. His part-time role behind Tyler Flowers will be one that takes a little adjusting, although Ventura said Wednesday that he hopes to get Nieto into a game during the season's first week.
Not having his name regularly in the starting lineup won't change Nieto's preparation.
"I've been told that, not just now but when I came up through the Nationals system, you have to come to the ballpark every day like you are playing," Nieto said. "I'm going to come in and have a routine and do that like I'm playing again.
"Anything can happen. God forbid an injury happens to Flo, you gotta be ready to go. Come in every day like I'm starting, so when my name is called, I'll be ready."
When Nieto is introduced Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, his mother and father will be in the stands. He joked Wednesday that it was his mother who used to push him to get gas in his car when the gauge read empty, but Nieto was trying to conserve his money at all times.
With the trip to the Majors, Nieto's gas money quickly increased.
"It's surreal. It hasn't hit me yet. It's crazy. You go from making $5,000 to making plenty. It's crazy man. It's a great feeling," Nieto said. "I'm more excited for [my parents] honestly. That's all they wanted me to do, accomplish my dream."
"He's a great kid, works hard and deserves it, really," left-hander John Danks said. "He has caught me a lot this spring, and he does a great job."
Danks assists cancer awareness initiative
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Danks has no problem getting his head shaved every Spring Training, because it's for a great cause such as the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
Danks still hopes to be involved with St. Baldrick's, but this season, he's also the White Sox representative for a fundraising program started by Cardinals reliever Jason Motte.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the strikeout cancer tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities.
Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirt sales and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
A second cousin in Danks' family has battled and currently conquered cancer at a young age. So, this initiative, like St. Baldrick's, hits close to home for the southpaw.
"That's something that means a lot to me, kids that are unfortunately put on a spot that they can't help," Danks said. "I feel like I'm blessed not only financially but having kind of a platform. So I try to do what I can to help."
Third to first
• Nate Jones either legitimately doesn't know who is closing for the White Sox in 2014 or has the ability to maintain the team's silence around that decision.
"No, zero," said Jones, when asked if Ventura or pitching coach Don Cooper had said anything about who is closing. "They haven't said a word about it to anybody."
Jones was bothered by a strained left glute at the start of camp but has pitched through the physical issue. He understands numerous candidates are in place to fill this job, such as Matt Lindstrom, Maikel Cleto or even Daniel Webb, if he breaks camp with team.
Both Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn indicated Wednesday a closer-by-committee was even a possibility.
"We have numerous late-inning options who, when the right situation arises and the phone rings, will come in and get the three outs based on how Robin and Coop want to play it," Hahn said. "If that evolves into a situation where one guy is usually the guy with the lead in the ninth, great."
• Relievers Donnie Veal, Scott Downs, David Purcey, Zach Putnam, Lindstrom and Cleto are scheduled to pitch Friday in Birmingham, Ala.
• Hahn is not counting on infielder Jeff Keppinger's return from a shoulder impingement any time in the near future.
• Jose Abreu has 10 RBIs in his last 10 games.