White Sox

Danks' recovery ahead of schedule

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Danks' recovery ahead of schedule

John Danks is in good enough shape after his left shoulder surgery to have begun his throwing program earlier than expected.

Exactly three months after doctors arthroscopically repaired a capsule tear and minor debridements in Danks left shoulder, the White Sox 2012 opening day starter began to participate in a two-plus month throwing program on Monday.

Danks has thrown twice already this week and said hes off to a good start.

Danks, who went 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA in nine starts last season, said the early start has him confident hell be ready by the time the White Sox open spring training in Glendale, Ariz. in February.

It definitely makes me feel like were doing the right things, Danks said by phone. The target date is still spring training. I think Im on pace to be ready by then. Thats the goal until Im told otherwise.

Although he didnt expect to feel 18 again, Danks has been able to make all the throws asked of him through two sessions. Hes even more pleased he was able to bounce back after Mondays session and make all 40 scheduled throws on Wednesday.

The plan administered by the White Sox training staff calls for Danks to throw every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through early January. Danks would then graduate to his normal throwing program to get ready for spring training. He said the White Sox moved the start date for his current program up three days in order to keep him on schedule for spring training.

Really didnt know what to expect, Danks said. Im not ready to get on a mound tomorrow, but everyone is pleased with where I am at. Were really kind of limping. It isnt a ton of throwing, just trying to retain my body to throw again.

Danks believes his Aug. 6 surgery -- one that revealed no damage to the rotator cuff -- is comparable to one Johan Santana had in mid-September 2010. Even though he had accrued more than 2,250 professional innings at the time of his surgery, Santana was able to return in late 2011 and then made 21 starts for the New York Mets in 2012. Danks, who signed a five-year, 65 million extension last offseason, has thrown 800 fewer innings than Santana.

That makes me feel a lot better, Danks said. He had a lot more mileage on his arm and (for him) to come back and have success definitely makes me feel a lot better. Its definitely something I can come back from and be normal.

The White Sox also lessened the burden on Danks when they announced Tuesday they would bring back Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd in 2013. Danks knows he doesnt have to rush back to competition --- he can afford to take the required time needed to rehab. With those two veterans in the fold, along with Chris Sale and either Jose Quintana or Hector Santiago, Danks is excited about the possibilities for the teams rotation next season.

It takes some pressure to come back a little sooner, Danks said. I think I was a factor in that, but if you can keep Gavin and Jake around, thats something you have to seriously think about. Its a huge help all the way around. Its lining up to be a fun summer.

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.