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Sox lefty John Danks not up to speed, gives up 4 homers to minor-leaguers

John Danks

John Danks

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — John Danks tried to stay positive, and there was reason to look at the bright side. His surgically fixed shoulder feels good.

There was no getting around the fact, however, that four White Sox minor-leaguers hit home runs against him in a scrimmage Sunday morning. The Sox’ $65 million left-hander will be hittable until he can deliver a fastball in the low-90 mph range. On Sunday, his four-seamer was around 86.

“My game is changing speeds,’’ said Danks, who gave up long balls to Cody Puckett, Kevan Smith, Trayce Thompson and Brady Shoemaker in his 66-pitch workout. “I’ve never been a high-velocity guy, but I need more velocity than I have now to make that gap a little bigger [between the fastball and off-speed pitches]. If I can get back to 91, 92, that’s what I’ve always been. Not expecting much more than that. I definitely have a ways to go.’’

After struggling through four Cactus League starts, Danks was moved to a schedule against minor-leaguers and will start the season on the disabled list.

“Obviously, we thought we’d be there at this point, but it just didn’t work,’’ said Danks, who in February optimistically said he expected to break camp with the team. “We’re at the mercy of my shoulder. We’re doing everything we know to do, and hopefully sooner than later, we’ll be ready.’’

Nothing official

Right-hander Dylan Axelrod, who is the likely starter in the Sox’ fifth game against the Mariners at home on April 6, pitched in the same game as Danks and threw 62 pitches on short rest.

While all signs point his way, Axelrod said he hasn’t been told he’s the guy.

“Not firmly,’’ he said.

“I don’t know what the official word is. They haven’t told me anything, so I’m going about my business.’’

Santiago in wings

It’s possible that Axelrod will share starts in the fifth spot with left-hander Hector Santiago, who pitched three scoreless relief innings with five strikeouts against the Athletics on Friday night.

Santiago was 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four starts last season, including a seven-inning outing with no runs allowed and 10 strikeouts in Cleveland on Oct. 3. The Sox play in Cleveland on April 10, when the fifth starter’s second start lines up, which is why pitching coach Don Cooper told Santiago to be ready for anything. Lefties were tough on the Indians last season.

“Coop said, ‘Be ready, you might start against a lefty-hitting team that’s stronger against righties, so you never know when you’ll get in there. Just be ready for every role.’ ’’

Axelrod and Santiago have been prepared for weeks.

“We came into spring knowing they wouldn’t rush [Danks], and if something wasn’t right, they’d push him back if he wasn’t ready,’’ Santiago said. “If he was healthy, perfect. And if he wasn’t, it was something we kind of expected, and they made plans to have me and Axelrod ready.’’

Rios sidelined

Alex Rios (stiff lower back) sat out a second consecutive day. Rios is receiving treatment and said he hoped to be ready by Monday. “It’s nothing to worry about,’’ he said.

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