White Sox

John Danks wants to do more in White Sox rotation

3-14johndanks.png

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.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Four-hit day for Eloy Jimenez

white_sox_prospects_update.jpeg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Four-hit day for Eloy Jimenez

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Eloy Jimenez had four hits, including a pair of doubles to boost his batting average to .322 on the season. Seby Zavala hit his 10th home run of the season and drove in a pair of runs in the 7-2 loss. Spencer Adams got the start and allowed four runs but also struck out nine in just 4.2 innings of work.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had two doubles and Evan Skoug had two hits in a 3-2 win. Big leaguer Carlos Rodon made a rehab start and struck out six, allowing one run in five innings.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and Thyago Vieira threw a scoreless inning in an 8-4 loss.

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

0516_jace_fry.jpg
USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”