Danks eager for bounce-back season with White Sox

Having a healthy John Danks in the rotation means everything to
the Chicago White Sox.

Robin Ventura’s team was in first place in the AL Central last
season for 117 days before fading in the last two weeks, and a
fully healthy rotation could have helped the White Sox go the
distance.

Danks made only nine starts last season before undergoing
season-ending surgery on his left shoulder on Aug. 6. It was a
major setback for the left-hander, who received a five-year, $65
million contract extension last offseason. He can’t wait to get
going this year.

”I anticipate being ready,” Danks said Tuesday, the first
official spring training day for pitchers and catchers.
”Obviously, there is a lot of time between now and then. I feel
good about things. We’ll see how it goes.”

The opening day starter will be left-hander Chris Sale or
right-hander Jake Peavy, two All-Stars in 2012. If Danks is ready,
he could be next followed by Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana.

It’s a rotation general manager Rick Hahn believes is good
enough to keep the Sox in contention, even though his only
significant offseason additions were infielder Jeff Keppinger and
reliever Matt Lindstrom while the Tigers, Royals and Indians all
look better on paper in the AL Central.

Hahn noted that Kansas City and Cleveland had room to
improve.

”The division is going to be tough,” Hahn said. ”I think
obviously Cleveland has improved over the 68-win team they were
last year. And Kansas City has improved over the 72-win team they
were last year as well. I think it’s going to be tough for any one
team to run away with it in the Central this year. I think it’s
going to be a fun summer.”

The 27-year-old Danks won 12, 13 and 15 games in the 2008-10
seasons before going 8-12 in 2011 when a right oblique strain
prevented him from topping 195 innings for the first time since
2007. He seems cautiously optimistic about having a healthy
2013.

”I (am) able to throw and able to do what they have asked me so
far,” he said. ”I’m where they told me to be at this point, so
hopefully that’s good enough.”

Danks began throwing breaking pitches in the last few weeks with
no issues. He threw a bullpen session Monday and will make his
first ”official” side session of camp on Thursday.

”I got through everything and was able to throw everything they
wanted me to,” Danks said.

Hahn’s major concern with Danks is reeling him in. There’s no
need to rush him, especially with the extended spring training due
to the World Baseball Classic.

”The biggest change with him is slowing him down and when you
have a guy coming back from injury, if you are going to have some
sort of hurdle or obstacle, that’s a good one to have,” Hahn said.
”It’s going to be on Coop (pitching coach Don Cooper) and Robin as
we go forward to sort of make sure he’s not biting off more than he
can chew.

”He feels strong, he looks great, he’s eager.”