John Danks did a number of things well during his home opener start Friday against the Cleveland Indians.
For the most part, he kept the ball down, and he kept the ball in the ballpark. He only issued one walk and struck out six. But a handful of mistakes led to boos being directed his way from a sellout crowd at U.S. Cellular Field as the 30-year-old left-hander allowed seven runs (five earned) in five innings in the White Sox 7-1 defeat.
The inconsistencies that have plagued Danks since he returned from shoulder surgery in 2013 returned on a snowy, cold afternoon in Chicago.
“The best ones are consistent and the average pitchers are up and down,” Danks said. “It’s as simple as that. Everyone in Major League Baseball is capable of pitching a good game. It’s the elite pitchers who do it on a regular basis. That’s definitely the grind. I’ll be ready.”
Danks, who has one year remaining on a five-year, $65 million contract, has worked tirelessly over the last few years to discover the kind of success he enjoyed before undergoing shoulder surgery in 2012. He worked on tweaking his windup — which features less of a leg kick — during spring training in an effort to find the consistency he had from 2008-2011, a stretch in which he compiled a 3.77 ERA.
But since returning in 2013 from that shoulder procedure, Danks’ yearly ERAs have been 4.75, 4.74 and 4.71.
After allowing five runs in the first two innings, Danks retired 10 consecutive batters before four straight hits plated two more Tribe tallies. It’s not like Danks hasn’t had that kind of success post-surgery — he threw a shutout against the Houston Astros last year, for example — but he’s searching for a solution to pitch that way on a regular basis, not just for one game or a handful of batters.
“He was down in the zone, getting ahead of guys,” catcher Alex Avila said. “We were able to mix pretty well at that point. Just got in a real nice rhythm during that stretch.”
Avila’s two-run throwing error in the first inning compounded matters for Danks, though the longest-tenured White Sox player took responsibility after the game for putting his team in the bases-loaded situation that preceded it. Danks still would’ve had to pitch out of a second-and-third jam with two out, but that first frame might not have been so disastrous.
“I think that play sets up a different looking inning,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He could have probably got out of it with one at that point.”
But the mantra remains the same for Danks. He’ll have to find a way to eradicate those inconsistencies to be more than a back-of-the-rotation innings eater for the White Sox.
“He just needs to be more consistent,” Ventura said. “He knows that, and hopefully we get that really quick.”