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.”