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John Danks will be White Sox’ fifth starter

Chicago White Sox's John Danks pitches against Texas Rangers spring exhibitibaseball game Tuesday March 11 2014 Glendale Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark

Chicago White Sox's John Danks pitches against the Texas Rangers in a spring exhibition baseball game Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) ORG XMIT: AZMD

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Updated: March 25, 2014 10:33PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — John Danks is penciled in as the No. 5 starter in the White Sox’ rotation.

Think he cares about where he’s slotted?

The only remotely upsetting thing about that for Danks — who’s eager to make good on his end of the five-year, $65 million contract the Sox gave him after the 2011 season — is that he must wait till April 5 for his first start in Kansas City. That’s going to test his patience, considering how strong and healthy he feels going into a season that opens Monday against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

“I can’t wait to get going,’’ Danks said Tuesday.

“I’m excited, feeling good, and I’m ready to have another good year again. It’s been awhile.’’

Chris Sale will start the opener, and manager Robin Ventura announced that free agent Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, rookie Erik Johnson and Danks will follow in an order that breaks up lefties Sale, Quintana and Danks as well as possible.

Danks, who gets his final tuneup of the spring in the Sox’ second-to-last Cactus League game Wednesday against the Reds, would have fit anywhere in the rotation, Ventura said. But spacing lefties Sale and Quintana, considered the Sox’ top two pitchers, at the top end of the rotation situated Danks at the end.

On March 19 a year ago, the Reds shelled him for 10 runs in 31/3 innings in his last start of spring training. After that, he learned he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster and would be going to extended spring training to build up arm strength. He had undergone shoulder surgery in August and was far from being back.

Being away from the team after toiling every day to rehab his shoulder only to be held back was as low as it got for the 28-year-old Texan.

“Those were some long, lonely days, man,’’ Danks said. “It was kind of emotional.

“Fortunately, I had a lot of people — family, teammates, friends, training staff — helping me and talking me off the ledge. Everybody was in my corner.’’

After being called up May 24, Danks made 22 starts, lost a career-high 14 games and had a 4.75 ERA, below the standard that had earned him his lucrative deal. Twenty-eight homers bit him in the rear.

“Trying to get more than I maybe had,’’ Danks said. “I’ve never been a finesse guy, and I was trying to pitch like I always had with less stuff. By doing that, the ball was getting up, the changeup didn’t have that big of a difference and the cutter wasn’t good. It was just all-around bad. I was able to learn some things, like flipping a curveball in there to steal a strike and get ahead. That’s something I’ll carry over this year.’’

Confidence is one thing and doing it is another, but Danks is sure he can return to his pre-surgery form.

“I really do,’’ he said. “I feel better this year than I have in two or three years. I know I’m capable.’’

Injuries always enter into the risk-reward realm of pitchers and contracts. With two years left in his, Danks knows he has some making up to do.

“I’m very blessed, I understand that,’’ he said. “I obviously owe the White Sox a lot more than what I’ve given them to this point. I feel like there’s plenty of time to make up for that. That’s the goal, to make it worth it for them.’’


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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