Good gravy, that did not go well at all.
Heading into Tuesday’s start against the Reds, John Danks needed to start hinting that starting the first week of the season with him in the rotation would be a good baseball idea, and not just a physically tenable one. Instead he allowed 11 hits and 10 runs over 3.1 innings, with two walks and no strikeouts, and left us with the grotesque task of determining whether this start was worse than his last.
The wave of weak contact singles and the botched first inning double play ball in the early going suggested that Danks was just a few good bounces from a happier outcome Tuesday, but waves of seeing eye singles can happen when you’re not missing any bats. At least last Thursday against the Angels, Danks put away a few hitters with some decent changeups.
“I felt like I was ahead in the count, but I just wasn’t able to make that pitch,” Danks said.
The answer of course, is that this most recent start was worse. Because it was most recent, because it showed little progression in his command, because it found Danks still mired in high-80’s velocity, and “looking uncomfortable in his mechanics” according to Reds color commentator and former relief pitcher Jeff Brantley.
Two weeks from Opening Day, Danks is not injured or complaining of discomfort, but also very clearly not in working order. There are a lot mitigating factors when it comes to spring training performance, but nothing significant enough to where having more home runs allowed (five) than strikeouts (four) over 11 innings of work is not alarming.
“The window is closing though. It is getting pretty tight,” said Robin Ventura on Danks’ chances of starting the season with the team. The phrasing would suggest that it’s time to hurry, when if anything the past few weeks have called into question whether a ‘ready-by-April’ time scale was ever a goal that was realistic to anyone besides Danks.
Danks continuing his rehab in Charlotte into April will likely bring forth Hector Santiago or Dylan Axelrod, or a fair share of both should they trade ineffective outings. They’ve been through the sixth starter circuit enough to differentiate their opportunities from the Pedro Hernandez-variety and could slide into the back of a few rotations around the league with limited outrage.
The real concern is not disaster at the hands of Santiago and Axelrod, it’s that Danks stepping in immediately and performing up to his career standards will not be one of the things that breaks right and allows the White Sox to transcend their pre-season expectations. Instead, Danks is moving along at a reasonable rate for a pitcher coming off a major shoulder surgery, and makes it just a bit more likely that the White Sox will provide reasonable returns on their talent level as well.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan