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posted: 5/23/2013 8:47 PM

Danks returns to the mound for White Sox

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  • White Sox starting pitcher John Danks, shown here during spring training this year, goes to the mound Friday night for the first time since defeating the Cubs at Wrigley Field last May 19.

      White Sox starting pitcher John Danks, shown here during spring training this year, goes to the mound Friday night for the first time since defeating the Cubs at Wrigley Field last May 19.
    Associated Press

 
 

It has been just over one year since John Danks started for the White Sox.

So, what's manager Robin Ventura expecting Friday night when Danks makes his long-awaited return to the mound against the Miami Marlins at U.S. Cellular Field?

"A perfect game 27 strikeouts," Ventura said. "Perfect game. (A no-hitter) would be acceptable."

Ventura was either joking, or he was delivering a well-deserved jab at the moribund Marlins.

We'll settle for the former, and the guess here is Ventura and the White Sox will gladly settle for 6 quality innings from Danks in his 2013 debut.

The 28-year-old lefty last pitched for the Sox on May 19 of last season, and he earned the win after pitching 613 shutout innings against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

"It seems like a few years," Danks said after Wednesday's White Sox loss to the Boston Red Sox. "I was thinking about that. It's almost one year to the day that I pitched my last game, so I'm looking forward to it.

"This is exciting news. It was like Christmas Day when they told me. Now the ball is in my court. I have to go out there and win a ballgame."

After beating the Cubs, it appeared Danks had recovered from a slow start and was on his way to showing why the White Sox gave him a five-year, $65 million contract before the 2012 season.

Instead, Danks landed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder and was hoping rest and rehab would cure the condition.

When the discomfort lingered, Danks had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 6 to repair a capsule tear and minor debridement of the rotator cuff and biceps in the shoulder.

Feeling good at the start of spring training, Danks was hoping to break camp with the Sox and reclaim his spot in the rotation. But after going 0-2 with a 16.36 ERA in 4 Cactus League starts, he was relegated to pitching minor-league games and stayed back in extended spring when the White Sox opened the regular season.

After making 4 rehab starts with Class AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte, Danks finally was cleared to come off the disabled list. Before the decision was made, he had to convince Ventura, general manager Rick Hahn and pitching coach Don Cooper that he was healthy and ready to contribute.

"If I feel like I'm capable of getting big-league hitters out and giving us a chance to win, I'll go out there," Danks said. "But I'm not going to go out there just for the sake of me going out there and getting back.

"This is only about wins up here. So, yeah, I'm putting the same kind of pressure on myself and same kind of expectations I had before I got hurt."

A popular player in the clubhouse, Danks' teammates can't wait to see him back in uniform.

"I think it's, more than anything, happy," captain Paul Konerko said. "Any time there is a situation where a guy goes down with a major surgery or anything like that, for me anyways, I don't even think about how it's going to help us.

"I'm just happy for the guy that he can get back on the field because when something like that happens to a pitcher there are doubts that you'll ever get back out there. You never know.

"As a friend, I'm happy for him and I hope it goes well. But for me, as long as he walks off the field healthy after that game there is really no bad outing. Hopefully he does well, but I think he probably just wants to get through it and move on with the season."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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