John Danks battles control lapses in fourth rehab start

Erica Caldwell / Charlotte Knights

Outing against Buffalo begins with pair of plunkings, ends with cluster of walks

Entering tonight's start against Buffalo, John Danks had his sights set on the Chicago rotation. But after an uneven 4 2/3 innings in Western New York with the Charlotte Knights, it will be interesting to see whether the front office places more value on Jekyll or Hyde.

Danks bookended his night with lapses in control. He struck out Mike McCoy to start the game, then plunked Anthony Gose (lefty) and Moises Sierra with a pair of cutters. Danks came back by getting a weak chopper to first. Lars Anderson thought about throwing to second, but after a pump, he turned and tossed to first. Danks, seeing Anderson turn to second with arm raised, had looked down to find the bag, and the toss went past him for an error and a run.

But the run would be unearned, because Danks came back to strike out Mauro Gomez with a curve in the dirt after an 0-2 fastball high. Andy LaRoche threw his bat at a changeup off the plate to second, and Danks escaped the inning with no further damage.

The fifth took a strange turn in the same fashion. Danks got Eugenio Velez to his a weak chopper to third for the first out on the first pitch. That one-pitch out was followed by a four-pitch walk. And another four-pitch walk. He started Gose out with a ball two, but eventually got ahead 1-2 ... before a seven-pitch walk loaded the bases.

With the bases loaded, Danks fell behind Sierra 2-0 before battling to a full count. Danks doubled him up with changeups, the second one resulting in a tap back to the mound, which Danks grabbed to tag the runner at third for the second out.

But then he fell behind lefty Luis Jimenez 2-0, and after another full count, Jimenez inside-outed the ninth pitch to left for a two-run single. That ended Danks' night, resulting in this line:

IP H R ER BB K HR HBP
Danks 4.2 2 3 2 4 5 0 2

In between, Danks allowed very little in the way of firm contact. He erased a leadoff walk in the second with a cutter-induced 5-4-3 double play. He struck out three hitters in a row from the third to the fourth inning, all of them swinging. That was all part of a stretch during which Danks retired eight of nine before those three consecutive walks.

This was the only hard-hit ball he allowed, but Andy LaRoche only ended up with a double off the top of the wall thanks to the wind.

Danks-double_medium

The only other hit was the aforementioned Jimenez single to left that ended his night. Out of the rest of the batted balls, he got seven groundouts, a pop-out, and a soft lineout to right.

He threw a few curves, but mostly stuck to the cutter and changeup as usual. Here's a rare lefty-lefty changeup used to strike out Gose:

Danks-change_medium

And here's Sierra swinging over the top of his cutter for strike three.

Danks-cutter_medium

Regarding velocity, I only heard one speed reading, and that was for a 90-mph swinging-strike fastball at the top of the zone. I'm assuming he's 87-91, which has been the norm over the past few weeks.

Toronto's Triple-A affiliate entered the game leading the league in batting average, home runs, OPS and its components, but it didn't look like it through the first four innings. Danks eventually came undone in the fifth, but it was mostly of his own doing. Had he been able to complete six at his quality, it would have been quite an encouraging step. But since his command abandoned him twice, one more night with the Knights might be recommended.

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