Hahn confident in club; Danks placed on DL
GM likes options to replace lefty, optimistic about camp's developments
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- John Danks was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 22) prior to Tuesday's White Sox 9-1 Cactus League victory over the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
It was not an unexpected move, as the southpaw needs more time to gain arm strength while regaining his velocity and better command following Aug. 6 season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery. According to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, the timetable for Danks' return has not yet been set.
"He's going to stay back here on extended, make a couple starts here, and as he continues to feel better and mechanically is in a good spot, he'll head out on a rehab assignment," said Hahn, during a 16-minute meeting with beat writers. "It could be a couple weeks, it could be longer. It's based on how John feels and how the ball is coming out of his hand."
The good news for Danks, as has been mentioned countless times over the past six weeks, is that he's pain-free. On the flip side, his velocity has been topping out consistently around 88 mph.
Danks has never been a 96 or 97 mph sort of pitcher. But he needs to add velocity in order to have a greater differential between the fastball and changeup.
After shoulder surgery for a pitcher, there's always the question of whether there's a finite amount of innings in that arm for the following season. So Danks missing the early part of the campaign could set him up for a stronger finish.
Then again, there's the idea that what Danks has been featuring during Spring Training could be as good as it gets at this point following surgery. Danks believes there's better stuff to come, while Hahn believes it's too early to know.
"As we've talked about for months now, you're dealing not only with an injury, but you're dealing with a pitcher injury and a shoulder injury on a pitcher, so it's very hard to predict what exactly the end game is going to look like," Hahn said. "It's very rarely a linear progression from surgery to regaining full strength and returning to form with a specific road map for it.
"Taking a larger long-term view of this, he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for even being up on a mound pitching competitively coming off an August shoulder surgery. We emphasize when we talk to John that there's a lot to feel very good about. Obviously, it's not going to be ready for us on April 1, but his shoulder doesn't know it's April 1.
"It's an artificial deadline," Hahn said. "If he continues to progress the way he has over the last several months since the surgery, he's absolutely going to contribute and we feel in a big way, not only this year, but obviously for several years, too."
More experienced starters are becoming available as final rosters are set around baseball. While Hahn said the organization is looking for other upgrades, he's confident Dylan Axelrod, Hector Santiago and/or a Minor League option such as Simon Castro or Erik Johnson can bridge the rotation gap.
"Experience is a plus. It's definitely a positive on a guy's ledger. But it's not the end-all, be-all," Hahn said. "It has to fit for our ballpark. It has to fit for how he complements the rest of the staff. He has to be a guy that we feel can survive for an extended period in the American League, which for us is a little higher standard than just your average run-of-the-mill guy.
"Again, we are expecting John Danks back at some point. Barring that, we do have some internal options that will get us through. If it comes to the point where we need to look outside later in the season, then we will address it then."
So the White Sox break camp Wednesday with primarily the players who have been with them since back on Feb. 10. Despite Danks' issue and nagging injuries for Jesse Crain (right adductor) and most recently Alex Rios (lower back), Hahn considers this Spring Training a success.
"We like what we have seen out of [Gordon] Beckham being able to maintain where he was with his swing last year. We like what [Tyler] Flowers has done behind the plate and offensively," Hahn said. "As difficult as it was to not have them around, I think both Rios and [Alejandro] De Aza benefited from the [World Baseball Classic] experience.
"De Aza has swung well since he got back and Rios swung well there. They were both extremely enthusiastic about the experience and have brought some of that enthusiasm back with them from the WBC.
"I feel real good about being able to come to terms on the [Chris] Sale contract," added Hahn, who pointed to strong camps for prospects as another plus. "We've had an opportunity with this extended spring to really address most of the elements of the organization and operations. We leave here on the same page and optimistic about where we're headed."