White Sox

Jordan Danks finally gets his shot

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Jordan Danks finally gets his shot

Jordan Danks totaled 406 hits over five minor-league seasons. But he always thought about that first hit in the majors, and how it would happen.

On Friday, it happened.

Danks replaced Dayan Viciedo in the top of the sixth, as the White Sox starting left fielder's hamstrings tightened up. In his second at-bat, he singled off Wesley Wright.

"It's a crazy feeling. You think about it all the time," Danks said. "Everybody wants to come up here and everybody wants to get their first, I was just glad it happened sooner rather than later."

It took Danks just two tries to get his first hit. For Robin Ventura, the wait was similarly short, as he walked in his first career at-bat and singled in his third. He didn't have to wait long to get his first taste of the majors, making his debut a day after joining the Sox in 1989.

Ventura saw plenty of youngsters grow anxious on the bench waiting for their major-league debuts during his 16-year career. He's glad Danks didn't have to go through that.

"You get guys that get called up -- having been a player and see guys that sit without getting in there, the buildup can be a little rough," Ventura said. "It's nice to be able to get him in there and get him an at-bat."

The first at-bat of Danks' major-league career came in the sixth inning Friday against Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez, the lone remaining Astro from the 2005 World Series team. Danks was 19 in 2005 and in his freshman year at the University of Texas when the Sox ended their 88-year title drought. He was drafted in the 19th round by the White Sox a few months prior, although he opted to continue his playing career under Augie Garrido in Austin.

Growing up in Round Rock, Texas, Danks was a three-hour drive from both Houston and Dallas. He said he didn't grow up an Astros fan -- nor a Rangers fan -- so making his debut against Houston didn't have the added significance of, say, Mark Buehrle pitching against the Cardinals.

He's been connected to the White Sox for a long time. His brother, John, was acquired by the Sox in December of 2006 and has been a rotation mainstay for the last five seasons -- and, with his new contract, could spend a full decade with the organization. Jordan was drafted again by the White Sox in 2008 as a seventh-round selection with high expectations.

Danks didn't fulfill those, as he hit a wall in 2010 while playing in Triple-A. It took him three go-arounds in Charlotte to convince the White Sox he was ready, for there to be an opening in Chicago or both.

While working on his game in the minors, though, Danks did realize his shot may not come with the Sox.

"That was one thing that a lot of guys say, play hard every day, even if you don't get up with the team you're with, somebody's watching and you'll get a chance with somebody," he said.

But the White Sox didn't add Danks to their 40-man roster last December, leaving him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. Plenty of teams could've selected Danks and given him a chance to win a job out of spring training. But he was passed over and remained with the White Sox, the team that had drafted him twice but had concerns about his offensive development.

Defense has never been a question for Danks. He's been regarded as having a fantastic glove for years. It was his bat that was holding him back.

"Last year, watching him and seeing him progress and what he did in spring training, he's a great outfielder," Ventura said. "Offensively, he's improved for me watching him."

And that improvement -- a .302419.515 slash line with eight home runs in Triple-A -- was enough to convince the Sox to add him to the 40 and 25-man rosters when Kosuke Fukudome went down with an injury.

Danks will turn 26 in August. He turned 22 in his first professional season and didn't have the quick ascension through the Sox farm system some expected. But this week, he finally made it.

"I knew that at some point I would get here," Danks said. "I didn't know if it would be this year. But I was just going to keep plugging away until that time did come."

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.