As long as you kept your expectations in check, Monday's start was a success for John Danks.
It certainly could have gone worse based on the first inning. Facing mostly Giants reserves, Danks gave up a rocket-liner solo shot to Joaquin Arias, the second batter of the game. He came back to retire the next two batters on the strength of his defense -- Dewayne Wise made a nice running catch down the right field line, and Alexei Ramirez snagged a smoked grounder for the third out.
But Danks came back with a quick 1-2-3 second, and all the outs were unremarkable in the best way -- a squibber to second, a grounder to third, and a popout to first. After losing an eight-pitch battle to Kensuke Tanaka to start the third Robin Ventura decided Danks was done for the day.
Danks didn't appear hellbent on missing bats, whether by location or by body language. He threw 27 of his 35 pitches for strikes, with no walks and no strikeouts. His delivery was less strenuous, not falling off the mound to the third-base side like he normally does. As you might expect, he lacked a few ticks on his fastball range, which was clocked between 85 and 89 mph.
But that's all secondary to the fact that Danks is out on the mound, throwing strikes and getting outs. That's all he needed to do on Sunday, and he could check it off the list:
"(Control) was my biggest concern," he said, "just (because of) being a little geeked, getting out in a game the first time. I was very happy with my control, the fact that I was able to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play.
"I kind of lucked out a little bit, for the most part they were swinging. But in the deeper counts, I was able to stay aggressive and make them hit my pitch."
As we've learned from Jake Peavy's numerous rehab stints, throwing is only half the battle. Now he has to recover quickly enough to make another start when his turn comes around again. If he's able to come back with the same or better stuff on schedule, then Danks will really be making strides.
While Danks is on the road back to the rotation, Monday was a net loss in terms of the body count.
Jesse Crain will miss the World Baseball Classic due to a strained right adductor. Mark offered details on the hip muscle, which is the fourth different body part to betray him since the spring training of 2012. He missed nearly two weeks with a strained right oblique in spring training, then strained the other one in April, which forced him to the disabled list ... and not for the only time, either. He went back on the DL in early July with a shoulder injury, which cost him a month.
Last year, Crain tried to look at the bright side of the oblique injury by saying the light workload during the spring might pay off the rest of the season. That didn't really turn out to be true, and I'm weighing it as he applies pragmatic optimism to this situation:
"An injury like that, it can nag if you try to push through it," Crain said. "It will never heal and then you are dealing with it all year. We have to let it relax and get strong. It's like a strain. I have to let it recover so it won't be a hindrance the rest of the season."
And to finish up the triumvirate of frustrating injury cases, Keon Barnum continues to struggle getting his pro career off the ground. A shoulder injury limited him to 13 games in 2012, and now he's going to miss six weeks after getting the hamate bone removed from his right hand. After he recovers, he'll try restarting his season again in extended spring training.