Having lost his last 3 starts while allowing 15 earned runs on 27 hits and 5 walks in 141⁄3 innings, John Danks was desperate to salvage something, anything, from a sorry season during Wednesday afternoon's outing against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
It looked like another forgettable start was in the offing when Minnesota scored 4 runs on 7 hits in the first two innings, but Danks was able to adjust and the left-hander retired the final 16 hitters he faced before calling it a day in the White Sox' 4-3 loss.
"I made better pitches," Danks said. "There are some things I did today that were good. Obviously, the first two innings weren't. I think I probably got more groundballs today than I had all year. That's definitely a main focus of mine this off-season, that's how you keep the ball in the ballpark and give yourself a chance to go deeper in the game.
"Obviously, I'd like those first couple of innings back. I just didn't make good enough pitches and they hit them. I'm glad I was able to go as deep as I did just to save the bullpen and finish strong."
Thirteen months removed from shoulder surgery, Danks rejoined the Sox' rotation in late May and has predictably struggled. As he's built up strength in the shoulder, Danks has relied more on changeups, cutters and curveballs instead of fastballs.
Even though he is 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA, Danks doesn't think he rushed back too quick.
"We're not in Instructional League here," he said. "We're judged on our success, wins and losses are all that matter here. I wouldn't have come back when I did if I didn't think I could help this team win ballgames. Certainly, it's not been fun but we'll continue to work hard and get everything straightened out."
There is still time to make 1 or 2 more starts this season, and Danks will soon begin preparing for 2014.
"I'm not going to take too much time off," he said. "In a normal off-season I wouldn't touch a ball until the new year. My main focus in taking with (trainer) Herm (Schneider) and Coop (pitching coach Don Cooper) is to make sure I don't take any steps back. I'll take a little bit of time off but I'm going to continue to play catch and I think I'll spend some time in Nashville with Coop, so that'll be good."
Need for speed:
Micah Johnson was at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday, but he was wearing a sports coat instead of a White Sox uniform.
If the 23-year-old second baseman builds off his eye-popping season in the minor leagues, it's just a matter of time before he does join the Sox.
"It's a pretty cool experience to be here," Johnson said. "All the guys that I've seen play, that I played with, are here."
The Sox honored Johnson with a commemorative base after he led the minor leagues with 84 stolen bases this year while playing for Class A Kannapolis, A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham.
"I have seen faster guys than me, but I do what I can to steal my base," Johnson said. "My goal is to disrupt the defense and create more fastballs for the rest of the lineup to see. It is my goal to impact games."
Johnson, the White Sox' ninth-round draft pick out of Indiana University in 2012, batted a combined .312 with 24 doubles, 15 triples, 7 home runs, 58 RBI, 106 runs scored and 84 steals in the minors.
He was bumped up to Birmingham late in the season and played in five games before leading the Barons to their first Southern League championship since 2002. Johnson batted .368 with 7 walks and 7 stolen bases in the postseason en route to being voted MVP of the SL championship.
"When I got to Double-A at first, you are going to be nervous, obviously," Johnson said. "You think maybe your success was just because you are in the low levels. But I got there and stole 7 bases in the playoffs and got on base a lot, especially in the championship series. If I just stay to my approach, even at this level, I think it will translate just fine. Just get on base anyway possible, hit or error. Just don't worry about it. Get on base so I can score."