Danks is a ma­jor part of White Sox’ resur­gence

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Jay Co­hen

CHICAGO — John Danks care­fully worked his way through the stack of en­velopes, pulling his base­ball card out over and over again, scrib­bling his name and metic­u­lously pre­par­ing the me­mento for the re­turn trip.

Af­ter the emerg­ing pitcher from Round Rock made it though the pile, he handed the mound of mail to a White Sox club­house at­ten­dant, still not com­pletely com­fort­able with the whole process.

“It’s some­thing that you still think about,” the af­fa­ble Danks said. “I re­mem­ber send­ing cards off as a kid, too, and to think that these peo­ple want my au­to­graph is still pretty neat.”

Get used to it. There could be more on the way.

Chicago’s im­pres­sive run from the medi­ocre mid­dle of the AL Cen­tral to the top of the di­vi­sion has been fu­eled by the resur­gence of Danks and Gavin Floyd, two young starters who have turned it around af­ter a rough be­gin­ning this year.

Their con­sid­er­able tal­ents were on full dis­play this week, when the White Sox swept a four-game se­ries against woe­ful Seat­tle. Danks threw eight crisp in­nings in a 6-1 vic­tory over Felix Her­nan­dez on Mon­day and Floyd fol­lowed with seven in­nings of five-hit ball in an 11-0 win.

With Danks, Floyd and ace Mark Buehrle pil­ing up qual­ity starts, Chicago was 33-11 in its last 44 games head­ing into this week­end’s se­ries against Oak­land, in­clud­ing a 25-5 run head­ing into the Al­lS­tar break. The ro­ta­tion got even stronger Fri­day when the White Sox acquired Ed­win Jack­son from Ari­zona.

Danks is 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA in his last nine starts, im­prov­ing to 11-7 on the year. Floyd is 4-2 with a sparkling 1.04 ERA in 10 games since an aw­ful out­ing against Texas, when he lasted just 22⁄ in­nings and fell to 2-6 with a 6.64 ERA.

Man­ager Ozzie Guillen said there’s a sim­ple rea­son for each pitcher’s re­cent suc­cess.

“Strikes. When you throw strikes early in the count, when ev­ery­thing works for you and you make all your pitches around the plate, you’ve got a chance,” he said. “You see a lot of 3-2 change­ups, a lot of 3-2 cut­ters, be­hind in the count off-speed.

“When you do that, you will have suc­cess. Be­sides that, I don’t care what kind of arm you have. If you don’t throw a strike, you’re go­ing to get whipped.”

The 25-year-old Danks grew up root­ing for the Astros and Rangers, which­ever team was on TV that day. When the White Sox won the 2005 World Se­ries, he was pulling for Hous­ton.

Texas se­lected Danks with the ninth over­all pick in the 2003 draft and traded him to the White Sox in De­cem­ber 2006 in a five-player deal that sent Bran­don McCarthy to Texas. Danks made his ma­jor league de­but the next year, go­ing 6-13 in 26 starts.

He’s been a steady con­trib­u­tor ever since, win­ning 12 games in 2008 and 13 last sea­son, but now he seems poised for more.

“I think I might be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive now than I was even a cou­ple years ago, but I think it’s just quick in­nings, mak­ing them hit the ball early in the count and hav­ing guys make plays be­hind you,” he said.

One big dif­fer­ence from past years: Danks is keep­ing the ball in the park. He has al­lowed just seven homers af­ter yield­ing 28 in 2009.

With Detroit and Min­nesota still look­ing for con­sis­tency out of their ro­ta­tions, Danks and Floyd could be the key to Chicago’s hopes down the stretch and pos­si­bly into the post­sea­son.

Danks still has a No. 50 Black­hawks jersey hang­ing in his locker at U.S. Cel­lu­lar Field, a sou­venir from watch­ing their run to the Stan­ley Cup. Now, he’s look­ing for a sim­i­lar end to his sea­son.

“I hope,” he said with a grin. “I hope.”

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