John Danks returned to Chicago in a pretty antsy condition. He's been spending the season in Arizona pitching in extended spring training, and he's tired of it:
"I'm ready to go throw somewhere, and I'll tell them that tomorrow," an upbeat Danks said prior to Sunday's contest with the Twins. "I've done everything I can do in Arizona, and I'm ready to get into a real game atmosphere."
In his latest outing on Saturday, Danks pitched six innings, with his fastball consistently maintaining velocity levels of 88 mph.
For somebody like Danks -- somebody who lives with fastballs and cutters in and changeups away -- 88 really isn't enough for consistent, reliable success. His command is more hammer than chisel, so I'm skeptical of his ability to transition toward finesse on the fly.
Danks lobbied against a tough audience (Rick Hahn, Robin Ventura, Don Cooper and Herm Schneider), and his appeal fell through. He'll return to Arizona to continue to try building up his arm strength and velocity.
Axelrod wasn't even supposed to face the Tribe. Perhaps because the Indians pounded him in the past, Ventura rejiggered the rotation so Axelrod would pitch the finale against the Twins instead. But the rainout pushed everybody back a day, and Axelrod fell back into the opener against Cleveland, which Jose Quintana was originally supposed to start.
Turns out Axelrod wasn't the reason why the Sox lost. Nor is he the reason why the Sox are 7-12. He got pantsed in Washington, but he's allowed three earned runs across his three other starts, all while facing three high-profile MLB pitchers (Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson and Justin Masterson). He hasn't gotten a win to show for it, which shows why wins don't matter all that much.
We're about a month away from the anniversary of Danks' last start for the White Sox, and it's remarkable how no-name pitchers have rendered the recipient of the franchise's richest contract a relative afterthought. If you count Quintana for Danks' starts last year, and Axelrod for Danks' spot in 2013, here's what you get:
Danks' ERA across 2010-11 was 3.99, so throw in the abysmal run support leading to the below-.500 record, and Quaxelrod pretty much has everything but the jaw. Sure, the peripherals look nothing like a 100-percent Danks season, but Quaxelrod's strikeout rate (5.4 per nine innings) exceeds the one Danks posted with a bad shoulder in 2012 (5.0).
And that's pretty much why the Sox aren't forcing a rehab stint before Danks has the stuff to see it through. The Sox will likely need Danks to contribute this season if they have any hopes of contending -- partially because a sixth starter will need to pitch significant innings, but more because the lack of offense might require everything else to go super-right. But as it stands, the Sox have five or six better options than Danks at 88 mph, so he'll continue to take the slow track until he can exceed the speed limit.