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White Sox pitcher John Danks faces hitters for first time since surgery

The Chicago White Sox John Danks gets his throws during rainy day Camelback Ranch Glendale AZ Wednesday February 20 2013.

The Chicago White Sox John Danks gets his throws in during a rainy day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:42AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — We don’t have an abundance of dramatic story lines to report from White Sox training camp, and if you’re manager Robin Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn, that’s how you like it.

If you’re John Danks, you’d rather not be the story, especially because you had shoulder surgery. But Danks is because, as teammate Adam Dunn said, his addition to the rotation would be equal to Hahn having signed a big-name free-agent pitcher during on otherwise quiet offseason.

And Danks, who was signed to a $65 million contract extension only months before his shoulder gave out and finished his season late last May, took another important step Wednesday in his slow and steady progression toward being a rotation piece worthy of that kind of money.

Danks pitched to hitters, albeit under cover in outdoor batting cages on a rainy day, but it was all good: 50-plus pain-free pitches flying fearlessly out of his left hand.

“As long as he’s progressing, you’re happy,’’ Ventura said. “I don’t know much you get out of pitching in the cage, but it’s progress, which at this point is great to see. No pain and he was free and easy, and that becomes important.’’

A hard-nosed Texan with a bull-rush mentality about his craft, Danks hardly can contain himself. Hahn knows this and is watching closely with so much invested and so much at stake.

“It’s going to be on [pitching coach Don Cooper] and Robin as we go forward to sort of make sure he’s not biting off more than he can chew,’’ Hahn said. “He feels strong; he looks great; he’s eager.

“That’s all wonderful, but we still need to put a little bit of governor on him so we can hopefully get him through seven months.’’

Danks will pitch batting practice outdoors Saturday with regular sessions on two days of rest after that before his first game March 4 against the Giants.

“Coop just told me I’m exactly where he wants me,’’ Danks said after his throwing session. “I take that as I’m doing everything they want me to do, but I think I’m on pace to be ready to go. Like I’ve said all along, it’s not my decision, but things are coming along great.”

And, like Dunn said, if Danks is part of a rotation that includes Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana, the Sox believe they’re armed to compete with anyone. That’s what they’re saying, and they seem to believe it.

“What people are overlooking is, did we sign a No. 1 starter? Well, no, but theoretically we did,’’ Dunn said. “We’re getting John Danks back, and as everybody remembers, he’s pretty good. There aren’t a lot of teams that can say — if John comes back — they have three, possibly four frontline starters. And we’ve got that.’’

Danks was asked if he’s throwing without worry. That’s a hurdle when you’re healing up after surgery.

“We’re still building arm strength, and that will come,’’ Danks said. “But as far as health, I’ll throw as hard as I want. And I’ve been cleared by the doctors, and I’m past that mental block of cutting it loose. I feel like we’re at that point now where we can start working on pitching rather than trying to get back healthy.

“Even if I was 100 percent healthy, I don’t worry about velocity until toward the end of camp. I know it will come with arm strength.’’

Command can be elusive for any pitcher in February, but “it has been better than I anticipated. Even Coop said that. There are times when I get into a little mechanical funk, and that’s just part of coming back. Everything is falling into place.”

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