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White Sox lefty John Danks has money to earn

HIGHEST-PAID PITCHERS IN 2014

1. Zack Greinke, Dodgers $26M

2. Cliff Lee, Phillies $25M

3. CC Sabathia, Yankees $23M

4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners $22.86M

5. Cole Hamels, Phillies $22.5M

6. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers $22M

6. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees $22M

8. Matt Cain, Giants $20M

8. Justin Verlander, Tigers $20M

10. Adam Wainwright, Cards $19.5M

11. Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays $18M

12. Tim Lincecum, Giants $17M

13. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees $16M

13. C.J. Wilson, Angels $16M

13. Jered Weaver, Angels $16M

16. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers $15.8M

17. Josh Beckett, Dodgers $15.75M

18. Max Scherzer, Tigers $15.53M

19. John Lackey, Red Sox $15.25M

20. Jake Peavy, Red Sox $14.5M

21. John Danks, SOX $14.25M

Source: baseballplayersalaries.com

Updated: March 17, 2014 11:58AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — John Danks’ career has unfolded in significant, compartmentalized sections. Some good (the $65 million contract extension), some bad (shoulder surgery) and some in between (last year’s so-so recovery season).

What’s next? Danks welcomed in the official start of spring training Saturday with an optimistic take on where he’s at physically. For the White Sox, having the old Danks of 2008 to 2011, the one who earned that lucrative deal and the Opening Day start in 2012, would be a welcome shot in the arm.

To say the least.

“This was always going to be the litmus test, 18 months post-op, which is where he’ll be sitting on Opening Day or sometime in March,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “And to hear how he’s talking about his comfort level and how the ball is coming out of his hands is encouraging. What we saw today in the back field was encouraging, as well.

“It was a good day, and John, given where he is and his rehabilitation and recovery, has a far, far greater chance of returning to that form we saw from him for many years than repeating what we saw last year.’’

Given what Danks is earning —he’s the highest-paid pitcher on the Sox with three more years left on his deal — Hahn obviously would like to see that.

Not long after signing the extension, Danks had shoulder surgery in August 2012, then labored his way through 1381/3 innings in 22 starts last season. He kept his walks to a career low, but his homers allowed were at an all-time high rate, and he had a 4.75 ERA to go with a 4-14 record. It was a year of building endurance, learning to use his curveball more effectively than ever and working his way back to being the Danks of old, the one who finished with ERAs of 3.32, 3.77, 3.72 and 4.33 from ’08 to ’11.

“I had no problem getting ahead in the count,’’ Danks said. “The problem was putting them away. Once I get strength and stuff back, I’ll have no problem doing that.’’

There are signs that it might be coming back. Danks told trainer Herm Schneider that he feels like he’s 18 again.

“You name it, I’m stronger,’’ Danks said. “Not having to force things quite as much. The ball is coming out of my hand night-and-day better than it was last year, and hopefully it will continue to improve. But I feel good about things and confident. I have high expectations for myself, and we’ll see. We’ve got to go do it.’’

Fellow left-handers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have the 1-2 spots in the rotation locked down. The Danks of old would lend more credibility to a rotation that is also counting on rookie right-hander Erik Johnson and probably righty Felipe Paulino. But just who Danks will be this season won’t be known until at least April, no matter how good or bad he looks in Cactus League games.

Danks, who married country singer Ashley Monroe during the offseason, feels like a new man in many regards. He was bubbling with optimism, but keep in mind he was oozing with confidence last spring, as well.

“There weren’t super-high expectations [last season], and I understood it was going to take some time to get back, but I think I got all that behind me,’’ he said. “I’m back to where I want to be, and hopefully we don’t have to talk about shoulder surgery anymore.

“Last year was trying to get close to ready to pitch as I could. It didn’t go very well. This year I feel like I’m 100 percent healthy and ready to help contribute with the rest of them.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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