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So far, so good after first mound session for White Sox’ John Danks

KANSAS CITY MO - JULY 20:  Starting pitcher John Danks #50 Chicago White Sox reacts after an out during

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 20: Starting pitcher John Danks #50 of the Chicago White Sox reacts after an out during the game against the Kansas City Royals on July 20, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\119454719.jpg

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Updated: February 14, 2013 11:43PM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was only the first official side session off the mound, and there’s a long way to go before April 1, but John Danks couldn’t have asked for better results.

The left shoulder felt good, he located his four pitches where he wanted and there was life on the ball coming out of his hand.

“Real good, John Danks!” an equally pleased pitching coach Don Cooper said as Danks threw about 40 pitches Thursday morning.

Tyler Flowers, who caught Danks, said the curve was the best he has seen from Danks. The changeup made Cooper nod with approval. The velocity, Flowers said, was a shade below normal — which was expected on Feb. 14.

“It felt real good,’’ Danks said shortly after finishing up and having the shoulder iced. “It’s encouraging to go out there and throw all four pitches and feel good after. I don’t know ­exactly how many pitches I threw, but I feel good about things. It’s obviously the first one, but it’s good to get out there.’’

After signing a five-year, $65 million contract extension, Danks replaced Mark Buehrle as the Opening Day starter last season, but he didn’t pitch after he beat the Cubs on May 19. Danks had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 6 to repair a capsular tear and minor debridement of the rotator cuff and biceps.

“This isn’t the first bullpen I’ve thrown, but this was as intense or more intense than any one that I have had so far. I’m pleased with how it went,’’ Danks said.

The buzz surrounding Danks stems from what he would mean to a rotation that was good enough last season to be in first place for three-fourths of the year.

“When you lose your Opening Day starter, that’s some kind of loss,’’ Jake Peavy said. “You take any team’s Opening Day starter away, it’s going to be hard to stay in first place, and we did. Getting John back when he’s able to come back, he’s going to be a huge shot in the arm.’’

The Sox might play it safe and start the season without Danks in the rotation, letting him ease his way back in. But Cooper said the extended spring training due to the World Baseball Classic helps Danks.

“He came in looking good,’’ Cooper said. “He’s in good shape. He’s lean, so way to go, doctors. Way to go, John. Way to go, Hermie [trainer Herm Schneider], in getting him out there to do what he did today. If you lined up 10 pitchers on the mounds out there and said, ‘Pick out the guy who had surgery,’ you couldn’t have done it. So that in itself is telling you something.’’

Danks’ next bullpen session is Sunday. Then he’ll begin throwing to live hitters in batting practice.

“I’m just trying to do what I’m told,’’ Danks said. “I tend to want to push things. I understand that, but I think the one common goal is that we all want me to be healthy and on the field. They have a lot more experience at getting guys back than I do. I’m doing everything in my power to get back.’’

Cooper said he wasn’t sure what to expect. The session “surprised” him.

“This was the first time I laid eyes on him since the last time he threw in a game,’’ Cooper said. “All good with John. It’ll be interesting to see how he feels [Friday], but, again, those two days [between sessions], that really works out for him as well as the other guys. He should be gassed up and ready to go two days from now, and the climb will continue.’’



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