Danks feels good after first session

John Danks threw mostly fastballs during a 10-minute session on Thursday. AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Danks threw pitches Thursday in front of Chicago White Sox coaches and front office members for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery over the summer.

For the left-hander, who is determined be on the Opening Day roster on April 1, it was another small step in the rehab process, with a number of big steps to come before the team leaves the desert to start the season.

"It felt real good," Danks said. "It's encouraging to be able to go out there and throw all four pitches and feel good afterward. I don't know exactly how many pitches I threw, but I feel good about things. It's obviously the first one but it's good to get out there."

Danks has been throwing near his Texas home, first playing long toss in a parking lot before graduating to some sessions from a mound. He has been throwing 40 pitches from a mound three times a week since the start of the new year. In that sense, he hasn't reached a new level of progression.

What was key Thursday is that everybody else could see for themselves that the reports were true and that Danks is well on his way to regaining his spot in the rotation.

"He came in better than I thought he would," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "I'm pleased with where he's at today. Now my sights are continuing to look forward and continue to climb with everybody else."

Danks threw mostly fastballs in his 10-minute throwing session, but did touch on his other three pitches as well: changeup, curve and cut fastball.

"He looked great as far as just the delivery, and he looked pain free and looked free and easy," manager Robin Ventura said. "We'll see how he is in a couple of days. As far as watching him, I think the last time seeing him throw, the look on his face and what he was going through, it's a lot different right now."

Danks will now get two days off as the White Sox take a deliberate route with his throwing schedule. After one more bullpen session Sunday, he will start pitching to White Sox hitters next week. His first Cactus League start is tentatively scheduled for March 4.

"At this point just trying to get back to where you're completely healthy," Danks said. "I felt good and the next step will be to start worrying about pitches. But right now it's still proving to everybody that I'm 100 percent healthy."

Danks remains confident that he can be ready to start the season on time. Whether the club lets him progress that fast remains to be seen.

"I'm just trying to do what I'm told," Danks said. "I tend to want to push things. I understand that, but I think the one common goal is that we all want me to be healthy and on the field. They have a lot more experience at getting guys back than I do. I'm doing everything in my power to get back."

Danks was admittedly not throwing at top velocity so significant progress needs to be made. Everybody seemed to be in agreement, though, that his curveball, a pitch he doesn't rely on too heavily, looked as sharp as it ever has.

"It's funny, I've been dealing with this for so long now that you forget what it's like to feel healthy sometimes." Danks said. "You try to realize or figure out what feels normal or if it comes with the injury. This is as healthy as I've felt in a year or so, so things are on the up."