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John Danks could return after 2 more starts in minors

White Sox starting pitcher John Danks works fourthinning as Chicago Cubs take Chicago White Sox Saturday May 19 2012 Wrigley

White Sox starting pitcher John Danks works in the fourthinning as the Chicago Cubs take on the Chicago White Sox Saturday May 19, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 4, 2013 4:09PM



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hurry back, John Danks.

With the White Sox’ rash of injuries working its way into the pitching staff, the team could use a shot in the arm from their 2012 Opening Day starter.

Danks’ seven-inning outing Thursday for Class AA Birmingham was encouraging, and he might be two more minor-league starts away from joining a rotation that has lost Gavin Floyd to an elbow injury. Jake Peavy is nursing a sore back.

“I had heard about Jake,’’ Danks said. “The news on Gavin bums me out. But this whole time, my focus has been on coming back and not coming back when I knew I wasn’t ready. I want to come back when I know I can get big-league hitters out.

“I’m not far off. I think I need just one or two more starts. I can’t wait to get back.”

Danks gave up two runs and five hits, throwing 86 pitches to a Chattanooga team that was swinging early in counts. He walked one and struck out one.

Danks will stay in Birmingham until Sunday and will start again Tuesday for Class AAA Charlotte at Columbus.

“John’s start [Thursday] night couldn’t have gone any better,’’ said pitching coach Don Cooper, who was receiving updates while the Sox were playing in Texas.

Danks said the best thing about his start was his cutter.

“This was the first time all spring I was consistent with what I wanted to do with it,’’ he said.

“I think also getting into a real game atmosphere and getting out of the Arizona air helped. This felt more like a game situation and keeping up with the [opponent’s] lineup. It felt more like this was a game than what was in Arizona.

‘‘I had more adrenaline going. This was fun. I got a lot of work in the extended spring games, but this had fans. It was fun.”

Class AA pitching coach Britt Burns said Danks looked exceptionally better than when he last saw him at the end of spring training.

“He had sink, he obviously threw strikes,’’ said Cooper, who spoke to Danks on Thursday night. “His second-best pitch was the cutter, and usually his second-best pitch was the changeup. I asked John what he felt best about his pitches, and he was happiest with his slider.

“We’re happy for him because he had a nice start. He’s doing better. He’s climbing. Now, we haven’t had a chance to have anyone here lay eyes on him. But getting that report said a lot. So he’s getting close.’’

When Danks comes back and with Floyd out of the rotation with the elbow injury that could require surgery, the Sox might have to make a decision on whether to keep lefty Hector Santiago in the rotation and move right-hander Dylan Axelrod out. Axelrod, a right-hander, has been solid, and Santiago looked like he belongs with his performance Thursday against the Rangers.

A rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Danks, Santiago and Axelrod would have four lefties, which is ultra-heavy on the port side.

There’s time to let that all sort itself out, though, and Cooper wouldn’t say what time frame the Sox have in mind for Danks joining the rotation.



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