When John Danks was breaking in with the White Sox in 2007, he learned a lot from starting rotation mate Mark Buehrle.
Danks said one piece of advice remains with him to this day.
Sox scouting reportWhite Sox vs. Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Friday and Sunday; WGN Saturday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The White Sox' Chris Sale (7-1) vs. Roenis Elias (7-6) Friday at 6:10 p.m.; Jose Quintana (5-7) vs. Felix Hernandez (10-2) Saturday at 1:10 p.m.; Hector Noesi (2-6) vs. Taijuan Walker (1-0) Sunday at 1:10 p.m.
At a glance: The White Sox have fared very well against the Mariners in recent years. Since 2010, they are 27-7 vs. Seattle (16-3 at home). The Mariners are playing solid baseball, winning four in a row and eight of their last 10. New second baseman Robinson Cano leads the offense with a .323 batting average and 51 RBI. Hernandez is third in the AL in wins and tied for first with a 2.10 ERA. Sale is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA in his last 8 starts. Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has a 17-game hitting streak. Center fielder Adam Eaton has reached base safely in 24 of his last 25 games, batting .310 over the stretch.
Next: Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Monday-Thursday
-- Scot Gregor
"He used to always talk to me about just being comfortable out there and the importance of throwing strikes," Danks said. "Hitting's hard, you know?"
Yes, it is. But this season Sox pitchers have been making life a lot easier for opposing batters.
Through Wednesday's play, the White Sox led the major leagues with 325 walks, in 763 innings pitched. By comparison, the San Francisco Giants had the fewest number of walks (208) in the same amount of innings.
Danks stepped up and shouldered much of the blame for the high count; the left-hander does lead the Sox' staff with 40 walks.
But almost half of that total came in April, when some mechanical issues resulted in Danks issuing 17 walks in 31 innings. Since May 1, he has chopped the total to 23 walks in 76 innings.
Danks has locked in on the strike zone and now -- a la Buehrle -- he is trying to help his younger teammates do the same.
In the first half of the season the White Sox called up a whopping 10 pitchers from Class AAA Charlotte.
"You just have to be comfortable," Danks said. "Speaking to the younger guys, this is their first, second year here. My best years, when I'd get 3 balls, I was able to just rear back and throw it, throw it right down the middle, throw it for a strike.
"It's a lot easier said than done, especially when you're talking to younger guys. Buehrle told me the same thing my first couple years. I think guys are getting more comfortable, trusting their stuff more, and that's why you should be seeing more consistent strikes."
To demonstrate the damage walks can create, flip back to Tuesday's doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Sox lost both games, and starter Hector Noesi issued 7 walks in 5 innings in the opener.
In the nightcap the White Sox scored 3 runs in the sixth inning to cut Los Angeles' lead 6-5. In the top of the seventh, starter Scott Carroll walked the first two batters. The first one scored, and the Sox' momentum instantly faded.
"Those 2 walks really (ticked) me off," Carroll said. "I can't do that. I can't lead off with walks. I can't just walks guys to put guys on base. I need to do better."
Much like Danks, manager Robin Ventura said the White Sox' pitching staff has to realize that pitching to contact is not such a bad thing.
"You have to be able to trust going in the zone and making contact," Ventura said. "You get to a certain point where if you're a strikeout guy, you're going to be looking for strikeouts. If you're walking too many people you've got to be able to go in and try and hit bats and hopefully the defense will catch it.
"But when you start putting guys on, you're just making it easier on the other team. The negative, inside, it just doesn't make you feel very good when you start walking people. Everybody knows the notion of you walk a guy and that guy inevitably ends up scoring and you kick yourself."