There’s a Chicago athlete that appears ready to make his return to his sport. He’s making seven figures, has been known to come through in clutch situations, and figures to be entering the prime of his career.
You guessed Derrick Rose, right? While I do hope Derrick’s return is soon, the player I’m talking about has had some much more encouraging signs in his rehab.
I’m talking about John Danks.
While he hasn’t come anywhere close to the level of superstardom that #1 on Chicago’s West Side has, his return to his team could be almost as important.
Coming off shoulder surgery, John Danks could arm the White Sox with a very formidable rotation and a very good left-handed arm in a division stacked with some great left-handed hitting. Since the rotation seemingly ran out of gas in September of 2012, it’s not far-fetched to think that if John Danks was healthy, his quality arm and knack for winning big games could have lifted the Sox past Detroit last season.
But really how close is Danks to coming back? And when he does return, what are the expectations here?
Optimistic Signs from Glendale
So far, all the news appears to be good on Danks’ front. In his two bullpen sessions since reporting to camp in Glendale, there have been no reports of discomfort, and his stuff’s even drawn some praise from Tyler Flowers. While Rick Hahn and White Sox brass say (wisely) that they “aren’t out of the woods yet” with Danks, he appears to be on track to join the White Sox rotation on Opening Day.
When the White Sox, who almost never toss out long-term deals to pitchers, gave Danks a five-year, $65 million deal in December of 2011, they obviously viewed him as a big part of their future. The expectations that come with that contract are to be one of the team’s top two starters, and asking that of a guy coming off an injury he missed four-plus months with could be a bit unreasonable.
However, the good news for Danks is that while he was on the shelf, Chris Sale emerged as a legitimate ace, and Jake Peavy re-discovered himself as a top of the rotation starter. Now, even with the big contract, the White Sox don’t have to necessarily count on Danks to be that front-line starter.
While it is good that Danks has appeared to be 100 percent so far in camp, don’t be surprised if the White Sox handle him with care. With the two off-days in the first two weeks of the regular season and with Mr. Versatility Hector Santiago fully capable of making a spot start, it’s not inconceivable to envision Danks being held back until the middle of April (perhaps on the back end of the first road trip in Cleveland or Toronto).
The White Sox have had a good track record when it comes to these situations (just look at Jake Peavy’s comeback as a great example), so however Danks is handled, Sox fans should rest easy.
His return won’t excite nearly as many people as the one Derrick Rose will hopefully make soon, but it will mean a stronger team equipped with a rotation built to win down the stretch.