Let’s face it, as far as challenges go, the present-day Miami Marlins aren’t exactly the 1927 New York Yankees.
A lineup featuring unproven hitters such as Nick Green, Chris Coghlan, Justin Ruggiano and Adeiny Hechavarria isn’t going to strike fear into many opposing pitchers.
But let’s not penalize John Danks because Miami owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t know how to run a major-league franchise.
Instead, let’s offer some well-deserved praise to Danks, who was back on the mound Friday night for the first time in more than a year.
“Everybody’s happy for John,” captain Paul Konerko said after the White Sox scrapped for a 4-3 victory in 11 innings over the Marlins (13-35), baseball’s worst team.
“Everybody likes John a lot,” Konerko added. “To be out that long when you have a career-threatening-type surgery, it’s nice to see a guy get back out there and have some success.”
Relying more on the changeup than the fastball and cutter he leaned on before having shoulder surgery last August, Danks threw 76 pitches in 6 innings, and 56 were strikes. The left-hander allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, struck out five and didn’t issue a walk.
“I felt great,” Danks said. “I felt really good. I felt like I was able to make the ball move and do what I wanted to do for the most part. There were a few pitches I would like to have back. All and all it was great, a great first time out. As the game went on, I started to hope for more.”
After being out so long, Danks will soon curb his appetite as his innings and pitch counts mount. And if the 28-year-old pitcher never gets his fastball up to a steady 92-93 mph again, he will adapt.
“If I can throw 87 to 90 and throw the ball exactly where I want to throw it for the most part, I would trade that in for 92 or 93,” Danks said. “I’ve seen a lot of 93-mph fastballs get hit hard and a long way.
“So as I progress in my career, I understand that location means a lot more. I’ve said that a lot, all along the way.
“As long as I can throw the ball where I’m trying to throw it and make the ball do what I want it to do, I feel like I have a good chance.”
Danks and the Sox fell behind in the fourth inning when Derek Dietrich hit a 2-run homer, but they battled back to tie it in the fifth and won for the seventh time in 10 games in the 11th inning on Jeff Keppinger’s game-winning single.
“That’s the best feeling in baseball,” said Keppinger, who is batting .400 (8-for-20) during a six-game hitting streak.
“You want to be that guy that can come through at the end of the game and put your team on top. I think I’m making more solid contact, starting to barrel more balls and be a little more picky with the pitch selection. It’s turning out well for me.”
The White Sox appeared to win the game in the 10th on Alex Rios’ fielder’s choice groundout, but first-base umpire Angel Hernandez called him out for an inning-ending double play.
Not surprisingly, TV announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson shredded Hernandez on the air.
“He’s the 26th, 27th and 28th guy,” Konerko said. “If he sees something he doesn’t like, he’s going to let people know. That’s the Hawk.”
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