If there is a more polite, respectful player than John Danks in major-league baseball, I have yet to meet him.
When one approaches the left-handed starting pitcher for a Q&A session, Danks will stand up and give his full attention.
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He was raised right in Round Rock, Texas, and he also was schooled on the proper way to compete in sports.
"No matter what we were playing, we were playing to win," said Danks, who starts the series opener for the White Sox against the San Diego Padres on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. "That's something my parents taught me at a very early age."
Danks' father, John Sr., played four years of basketball at the University of Texas, and Danks Jr. also played hoops at Round Rock High School in addition to baseball.
"I wasn't very good," he said. "I was kind of a scrawny guard, but I remember I was told I have 5 fouls and to use them. It's just being aggressive all the time."
From 2007-11, Danks was a certified bulldog in the Sox' rotation, and he is one of two starters in franchise history to make at least 25 starts in each of his first five seasons. In 2012, Danks went down with a sore shoulder that required surgery, and the 28-year-old pitcher gradually has been working his way back.
He's still a fierce competitor, but Danks is a different pitcher.
"I'm probably a smarter pitcher now," he said. "I have to do a lot more studying of scouting reports and have a true plan of attack rather than relying on pure stuff. I don't think my mentality is any different, but I certainly have to be smarter and try to balance my strengths with their weaknesses."
It's been an up-and-down season for Danks (3-4, 4.90 ERA), and the low point came during a May 18 start at Houston. Danks lasted just 4⅔ innings against the Astros, getting roughed up for 8 runs (7 earned) on 10 hits (3 home runs) and 3 walks.
"It certainly helps not having a guy go out there and give it up ever fifth day," Danks said. "I just want to pull my weight. I've got a lot of good talent around me. I know these guys are going to score runs and I have all the faith in the bullpen, but I'd like to give them a rest every fifth day."
After the Houston start, Danks and pitching coach Don Cooper went to work and made some big adjustments.
"I've pitched from every location on the rubber since I've been here," Danks said. "Last year I finished up right in the middle just to help me throw strikes. This season I felt like my angle of attack wasn't as good as it could have been in terms of making pitches look hittable when they aren't.
"I moved all the way to third-base side. It gives me a better attack in on a lefty and the cutter's not as big. Rather than have to throw way in, I'm able to kind of throw straight and it'll run off the plate. That, and just some mechanical things, I was getting on my heels a little too much and that was causing me to spin off.
"I focused on keeping my weight where it needs to be, my head where it needs to be."
The positive results were immediate.
In his last outing, Danks was easily the best he has been since returning from surgery. Facing the New York Yankees on Saturday, he allowed 3 hits in 8 scoreless innings and had 4 strikeouts and no walks.
"He had a great changeup working," manager Robin Ventura said. "The curveball, he was able to locate. I think when he's able to do that, he becomes tough. He was keeping everybody off balance."
Danks is bound to hit more bumps as the season progresses, but his work ethic and competitive fire should help get him back in smooth water.
"It's just staying on top of things, recognizing what you're struggling with and trying to fix it, hopefully without messing something else up," he said. "That's the way it's been my whole career; you're always working on something."