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John Danks earns first victory since surgery as Sox beat A’s

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher John Danks throws OaklAthletics during first inning baseball game Saturday June 8 2013. (AP Photo/Charles

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher John Danks throws to the Oakland Athletics during the first inning in a baseball game on Saturday, June 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

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Updated: July 10, 2013 6:54AM

There were plenty of times in spring training when John Danks fought the “what if’’ doubts of recovering from shoulder surgery.

But a day such as Saturday — when the White Sox left-hander dominated against a strong Oakland Athletics lineup — can make those doubts a distant memory. Danks retired the last 21 batters he faced.

“It’s night and day; not even close,’’ Danks said. “Obviously, spring training was tough. I battled through a lot in spring, and it’s just like they told me — the more time and more strengthening I get, the better I’ll be.’’

He was strong in his fourth start since returning to the roster, working eight innings in a 4-1 Sox victory. He limited the A’s to three hits, two in the first, when they scored their only run. The other single came leading off the second.

Manager Robin Ventura believed Danks (1-2) had pitched well in his last start against the Seattle Mariners despite giving up four runs (three earned) and seven hits in six innings.

“That was a normal game,’’ he said. “I don’t think you look at his games as though they’re fragile.

‘‘When he first came back, you were trying to see how he was. The last one he was like a regular pitcher, which is what you expect. He’s going to get judged on a different scale because he’s coming off the disabled list, but other pitchers give up homers and other pitchers give up runs. It’s not fair to put him in a box that he has to has to throw a shutout or not give up any hits to be viewed as, ‘He’s back.’ ’’

But Danks almost had a shutout in his first victory, and his performance encouraged his teammates for what it signaled about his comeback.

“You know ultimately it probably will be a good thing because his velocity is climbing as he goes, but he’s pitching with less velocity than he had years ago,’’ said Paul Konerko, whose two-run homer in the eighth off Sean Doolittle (3-1) padded the lead after Alex Rios broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single.

“You don’t want to waste an outing like that by one of your starters,” Konerko said. “We’ve had a lot of those where we couldn’t get our starter a win, and with John, it’s something a little more special getting it for him.’’

The Sox’ other run came on Adam Dunn’s homer off starter Tommy Milone in the second.

Danks struck out six, walked one and threw 96 pitches in his first victory since May 19, 2012. Addison Reed worked the ninth for his 18th save.

With Gavin Floyd gone and Jake Peavy out with a rib injury, Danks might become the tonic the stumbling Sox need.

“This is more indicative of what you would want to see,’’ Ventura said. “He’s a competitor always, but with the ability to throw and have location, and keep guys off balance and have a feel for the game.

“I’m just happy for him to be able to work that hard and get back and be able to go through a tough lineup like this.’’

Danks knows “it’s still a process.’’

“There will be days where it doesn’t feel great,’’ he said. “I’m fully prepared for that, but so far it feels great. Nothing’s bothering me. I’m able to throw all four pitches.

“I’d like to be depended on to go 110-130 [pitches] like the rest of the guys are. I want to just be another pitcher on the team who’s expected to get us in the seventh, eighth ­inning.’’

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