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.
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.”