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.”

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

1015_patrick_corbin.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Omar Vizquel is named the Carolina League Manager of the Year, Sept. 13.

Vizquel became the third Winston-Salem Dash manager to be named Manager of the Year. The Dash went 84-54, the second-highest win total in franchise history and won the division title in both the first and second half.

Vizquel's season: As soon as Vizquel retired after the 2012 season, he went straight into coaching. First, he was an infield coach for the Angels in 2013. Then, he became the first base coach for the Tigers.

Vizquel remained there until taking the Dash job in the White Sox organization this season. Winston-Salem was an important post because seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 prospects from MLB Pipeline's rankings spent some time there in 2018.

Vizquel was able to guide that talent to a whole bunch of winning. The Dash had the best record in the Carolina League in the regular season.

The playoffs did not go so well. The Dash got swept by the eventual league champion Buies Creek Astros in the first round.

Still, it was a successful managerial debut for Vizquel and the White Sox got to take advantage of his experience with a number of top prospects playing under him.

He may not manage the White Sox any time soon, but Vizquel's ties to the organization (two years playing with the team and now coaching in the organization) make him a possible candidate at some point in his managerial career.