Chicago White Sox: John Danks' Opening Day Status In Doubt

By Thom Tsang
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox may go in to the 2013 season without their Opening Day starter from last year.

John Danks, who’d gotten off to a late start in Spring Training after coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in August of 2012, is still a ways away from being in game shape, and that’s not something that the team isn’t going to rush.

Not that the 27-year old would have been relied upon to open the coming season, anyway. That nod will more than likely go to Chris Sale after the breakout he had in 2012, with a resurgent Jake Peavy also a possibility.

That puts Danks as the third starter in the rotation, where he’ll have less pressure on him as he tries to bounce back from a disastrous 10-start run that was halted by the shoulder injury.

He didn’t make his first Cactus League start until the beginning of March, and while his stamina is up, the results simply haven’t been there. The lefty has given up 10 runs on 16 hits and three walks over 7.2 innings of work, with the majority of the damage coming on Thursday’s six-run outing against the Los Angeles Angels.

The scoring line looks bad enough, but what the White Sox are concerned with is that despite throwing 61 pitching over 3.1 innings, Danks’ velocity was still in the mid-to-upper 80s, topping out at 89 mph.

Normally, a pitcher being a little bit below his regular season velocity is something that is expected to be built up over spring starts, but with Opening Day only a little over a couple of weeks away, time is not exactly on Danks’ side.

Should the team’s former No. 1 pitcher not be ready to go in April, the team does have their share of options.

Hector Santiago, who flashed glimpses of brilliance as a starter towards end of the year, is the likely first candidate as a replacement. The lefty got off to a rough first outing this spring, but has pitched reasonably well over his last three, allowing a single run on five his over six innings in March.

The command issue is still there (five walks), but I’d imagine that the team would like to see if he can build his brilliant 2012-ending 10-strikeout performance.

There’s also Dylan Axelrod, who made seven starts in 2012, and is again bullpen-bound this season. He has pitched well this spring, but is coming off a two-run outing on Friday that saw the soft-tossing righty give up five hits and a pair of walks.

I’d imagine that Santiago’s left-handedness gives him an advantage here, but there’s still a whole lot of spring left for the White Sox to decide things.

That is, unless Danks can quickly find his velocity, of course.

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