White Sox

John Danks wants to do more in White Sox rotation

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John Danks wants to do more in White Sox rotation

GLENDALE, Ariz. — John Danks isn’t satisfied with just being a pitcher who can reliably throw about 180 innings every year from the back end of the White Sox rotation. He made that clear when asked after his start Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

“Are you asking me if I’m okay with a four and a half (ERA)?” Danks said. “Nuh-uh.”

Danks’ ERA actually has been a worse since he returned in 2013 from shoulder surgery (4.73). But the point remains: The 30-year-old left-hander, who’s in the final year of a five-year, $65 million deal signed in December 2011, is trying everything he can to improve off those frustrating results of the last few years. 

“I’ll take 200 innings,” Danks said, “but certainly would like to be a lot more consistent than I have the last couple of years. That’s what we’re here for. … Definitely I would sum up the last couple of years as disappointing so I’m hoping to improve on that.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

This spring, Danks has focused on simplifying his mechanics a bit to help improve his command. The results aren’t necessarily a concern at this point — Danks allowed eight runs, including a pair of home runs, against the Diamondbacks — when getting comfortable with his mechanics is the goal over the next few weeks. 

“There were things I was working on,” Danks said. “Certainly (I) wasn’t trying to give up eight runs. We had a bigger priority today, I guess you can say. We got to take the revised mechanics out. We got to work on certain pitches and it was a good day. We accomplished what we hoped to accomplish and we’re going to get on the mound again in a few days and continue to iron things out.”

To his credit, Danks has tried plenty of tweaks since his shoulder surgery. And the percentage of pitchers who return to the major leagues, let alone have success again, after undergoing shoulder surgery is relatively low. Danks has thrown 509 2/3 innings over 84 starts since he went under the knife. 

“When you add an injury in there, it becomes a little bit harder,” manager Robin Ventura said. “For him, it’s always been about his changeup and he has to be able to throw it and locate his fastball. Competition and going out and giving it everything, that’s never been a question with Johnny.”

Still, the results haven’t been there for Danks. From 2008-2011, Danks allowed 80 home runs in 778 2/3 innings; from 2013-2015, he allowed 77 home runs in 509 2/3 innings. 

[MORE: White Sox fifth starter battle still coming into focus]

The goal now is that refining his mechanics with pitching coach Don Cooper leads to improved command, which in turn sees his statistics fall more toward where they were before 2012. 

“Certainly the goal every season is to throw 200 innings,” Danks said. “Consistency is something Coop and I have harped on. Hopefully this is the year we turn it around and get to where we expect it to be.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”