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White Sox pitcher John Danks is struggling, but remains confident

Updated: March 14, 2013 11:19PM



TEMPE, Ariz. — Since Day 1 of spring training, John Danks has been steadfast in his belief that he’ll break camp on the White Sox’ 25-man roster.

He repeated that conviction Thursday, but this time it came with a hint of hesitation after he was roughed up for six runs and seven hits by the Los Angeles Angels’ heavy-hitting lineup.

Mike Trout homered to lead off the first and almost homered his second time up, roping a double off the top of the left-field wall instead. Three more doubles were hit against Danks before manager Robin Ventura came out to get him in the fourth inning after 61 pitches.

The outing served as a reality check.

After Danks had arthroscopic surgery in August to clean up his left shoulder, the smart money had the 2012 Opening Day starter opening 2013 at Class AAA Charlotte, for caution’s sake if nothing else. It’s a long season, the Sox have capable short-term replacements in Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod, and they have $65 million invested in Danks, who turns 28 next month.

When Danks threw his side sessions relatively pain-free and raved about his progress afterward, he said he expected to break camp with the team. Ventura hasn’t ruled it out, either. But with Opening Day a little more than two weeks away and his fastball topping out at 90 and sitting in the upper 80s — his second straight outing of getting batted around pretty good — Danks was asked if he’s still on course to start for the Sox in early April.

“I think so,’’ was the more subdued answer. “I haven’t heard anything different. Going back to what Dr. [Anthony] Romeo said, there’s nothing else I can do. We’re at the mercy of my shoulder, really. I’m going to go out and keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, we’ll start to see better results starting with the next time.’’

Danks, whose spring ERA is 11.74, probably has three more starts this spring. He needs them to go better than Thursday’s.

“Once [he] started getting knocked around a little, it kicked in, and he picked it up a little bit,’’ Ventura said. “Even though it’s spring training, you’d like to see a little bit better.’’

That said, Ventura wouldn’t say Danks won’t be there in early April.

“I’m not looking that way right now,’’ he said. “He’s progressing each time out with how he’s feeling and velocity and stuff like that. That right now is more important, him being healthy than thinking that far ahead.’’

Maybe the results will improve in his next three starts, but without a good fastball, that will be a challenge.

“He didn’t have the velocity today, and that’s something that will happen,’’ Ventura said of the Angels’ seven hits.

Danks remains upbeat because that’s his nature.

“The frustration that you saw last season, he was very disappointed,’’ teammate Matt Thornton said. “Signing that big contract and looking forward to being our ace, then having surgery, he was disappointed. Now you see the excitement, you really do.

“At the same time, he’s frustrated because he’s not yet quite the same. You’re going to have good waves and bad waves; everybody does.’’

Danks took a positive view of his outing. His shoulder feels fine, and that’s the main thing seven months removed from surgery.

“Obviously, the results don’t show it, but I feel like this was probably one of my better outings,’’ he said. “I threw some good changeups; I got the cutter working toward the end. I gotta get the ball down, but that’ll come.

“It’s another small step. I won’t say a leap, but it’s a small step in the right direction.’’



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