John Danks shows improvement in third rehab start

Erica Caldwell / Charlotte Knights

Lefty settles down after rough first, throws six quality innings with improved command; velocity yet to be determined

John Danks might be ready for the White Sox rotation after all, if the fifth inning of today's game against Pawtucket was any indication.

The Knights had just taken a 3-2 lead the inning before, and Danks put it at risk by allowing a one-out double to Justin Henry. Henry turned it into a triple by getting a huge jump on Danks for an easy steal, but Danks stood a chance at stranding him at third when Jose Iglesias to hit a fly to shallow right.

And that's when Brandon Short dropped the ball. Henry came around to score an unearned run, tying the game at 3.

Classic White Sox misfortune aside, Danks seemed to have an easier time in his second rehab start with Charlotte -- at least after the first inning. He allowed hits to four of the first five batters he faced, and the lone out was on a sac bunt. He faced the bases loaded with one out, but escaped the inning with a pair of fielder's choices, including a 1-unassisted.

Considering he gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning, his final line could've looked worse:

IP H R ER BB K HR PIT-STR
Danks 6 7 3 2 3 5 0 101-66

That line should please Don Cooper a little bit. In the lead-up to this start, he told Scott Merkin:

"I would like to see him go out and get a little better result, not that the results are the end-all for him," Cooper said. "I would like him to continue to throw the ball better and command better. In his last outing, I think he had [five] walks. That doesn't really play, yet. So cutting those down for sure and turning them into balls in play.

"Also if he can continue to build up a little more 'oomfa,' a little more velocity. We are not trying to force feed that, because it is what it is and we'll get what we get. I want him to feel good about his fastball command, continuing his climb with his cutter as well as his changeup. But basically just clean it up a little bit, I would say. Clean up his outing."

In his previous start against Columbus, he walked five in five innings. So today's start marked an improvement overall, and from the second inning on, this outing was pretty clean, so he probably handled that objective well. I didn't hear any radar gun readings, but the Sox and/or reporters have been good about relaying them when they find out.

A few other observations from the radio broadcast:

*Danks got 11 swings and misses, and if their pitch identification is accurate, it sounded like he was using his curve more often. He's really only used it for surprise strike-grabbing in the majors, so maybe that's one way to get hitters off the diminished cutter.

*A stiff wind blew out to right field, so it could've been a good day for hitters.

*Danks allowed two easy steals of third base, although Bryan Anderson was able to gun down a runner at second.

And though it's not worth much, Danks did pick up the win, as the Knights beat the PawSox, 6-3. He had the support of his brother, as Jordan Danks went 2-for-4 with three RBI, and apparently made a brilliant catch in center.

Update:

OK, so maybe there won't be a real firm velocity report this time:

John Danks had shoulder surgery on Aug. 6 of last season and is still working on regaining his old velocity that topped out in the mid-to-low 90-mph range. The White Sox did not have a report on his velocity from Sunday and Danks claimed it was anywhere from 87-91, although he did say it was hard to see the radar readings on the scoreboard.

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