GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) While John Danks has moved down in the Chicago White Sox rotation, he now finds himself as the elder statesman of the locker room.
Paul Konerko’s retirement means that Danks, who won’t be 30 until April, has the most seniority as a member of the White Sox. He’s entering his ninth year with the team since being acquired from Texas in 2006.
”It’s weird,” the veteran left-hander said Saturday. ”At times I feel like I’ve been here forever, and other times I feel like I’m still the new guy.”
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”We’ve got a lot of guys who have been around and done things I’ve never even thought of doing,” he said.
That list includes Jeff Samardzija, who joins Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Noesi and Danks in the 2015 rotation.
”We have as good a top of the rotation as anybody in baseball,” Danks said. ”I’d put those guys up against anybody and it falls to Hector and myself to do our job on the back end. I know we’re both ready for that and kind of take it as a challenge to keep up with those guys.”
Danks’ role has changed as he has adjusted to life after shoulder surgery in 2012. He got close to the 200-inning level last season, just six innings short of it, and went 11-11 with a 4.94 ERA.
He said while he doesn’t think about the surgery any more, the adjustment is still ongoing.
”When my fastball gets over the middle of the plate it’s not strong enough to get away with as I did in the past,” Danks said. ”The main focus has been trying to get more life on the fastball. Command with four pitches, that’s my game now.”
That and, if needed, being there to counsel the younger pitchers.”
”I think back to my first camp, when (Mark) Buehrle and (Jon) Garland took care of me. I know how much that helped me and I try to pass that on to a guy like (first-round pick Carlos) Rodon or the other new guys,” he said.
It’s also the first season for Danks without younger brother Jordan in camp. Jordan Danks, an outfielder, was picked up on waivers by Philadelphia last month.
The younger Danks batted .227 in three seasons with the White Sox, mostly in a backup role and while riding the shuttle from Chicago to Triple-A Charlotte.
”Jordan is doing great. He landed on his feet,” John Danks said. ”He’s in a place where he has a good opportunity to make the team. I tried not to take it for granted playing with him and now that he’s not here I feel like I did a little bit.”
Another White Sox veteran, second baseman Gordon Beckham, returns on a one-year deal after being dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in August.
Beckham hit .221 with the Sox, but as a utility player with the Angels he hit .268 and played a small role in their run to the AL West title.
With Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson in camp as second base candidates, Beckham is just trying to make the team this time, even if in a utility role backing up Conor Gillaspie at third base or Alexei Ramirez at shortstop.
Manager Robin Ventura said that Beckham is in the mix for the second base job, but that’s not his focus.
”He’s coming in here to try and win a job and talking to him that’s what he should be trying to do,” Ventura said.
”There is also the flexibility that he can play multiple positions and we’re going to need him to play other positions in spring training to have that under his belt as well as we head into the season.”
Ventura and Beckham both thought it was good for the second baseman to get away from the team after he failed to live up offensively to his rookie season of 2009, when he hit .270 with 14 homers in 103 games.
”I didn’t know anything about pressure when I was called up. I just went out and played,” Beckham said. ”As time went on, I think that kind of mounted. So for me to get away for even five weeks was important to me, and I even told that to Rick (general manager Hahn). I needed to clear my head a little bit. So I don’t think that any of the weight of that is still on me.”