- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Danks threw a bullpen session Tuesday under the watch of pitching coach Don Cooper and said that everything was normal.
“It’s been a long process,” Danks said. “Hopefully it ends this weekend. I knew it was going to be a long process. We’re still not there. I’ll try to get in a game and get a better feel. There’s a light at the end of the season. It’s been long lost season and it’s hard to watch. I’m getting excited about getting back out there.”
The one-year anniversary of Danks’ last outing in the major leagues was Sunday. He ended up having shoulder surgery on Aug. 6 and despite participating in spring training activities, including Cactus League games, he started this season on the disabled list.
From there he went to extended spring training, but has made four minor-league appearances on a rehab assignment, the last three with Triple-A Charlotte.
Before his injury Danks was throwing in the low-to-mid 90-mph range, but hasn’t reached that level during his rehab. He isn’t saying he had to reinvent himself, though.
“I feel like I’m close to getting where my stuff was before I got hurt so, stuff-wise there won’t be too much of a drop off,” said Danks, who has struggled with his control at Charlotte. “My biggest thing is throwing the ball where I want to and making it do what I want it to do. So the stuff is going to be fine.”
The toughest part for the White Sox might not have anything to do with Danks at all. There are no plans on making Danks a reliever, so either Hector Santiago or Dylan Axelrod will lose their spot in the rotation.
Santiago has better overall stuff, but Axelrod throws strikes and changes speeds well enough to consistently deliver quality outings. Santiago is probably a better fit in the bullpen than Axelrod.
“We’ll decide exactly what we’re going to do and how we’re going to announce it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “So far, it’s looked good. Again it’s one of those where he throws (a bullpen) here, it feels good tonight and tomorrow and then we’ll be able to do it. You are (also) dealing with other people when you have decisions like this.”
Mentally, Danks has been ready to return for some time, but by holding him off until now, he can make his season debut Friday against the Miami Marlins, whose 122 runs scored heading into play Tuesday were dead last in the major leagues.
The Marlins also ranked last in batting average (.222), on-base percentage (.283) and slugging percentage (.319).
Danks would then be in line to make his second start of the season against the Chicago Cubs.
Staff ace Chris Sale said his anticipation for Danks’ return is off the charts.
“I can’t wait; it’s going to be awesome,” Sale said. “We were talking about it last night. Whenever it might be, I’ll be there front and center. It will be a great day, regardless of the results and what happens. I know how much he’s wanted to be back there, but what he’s gone through, not only physically but mentally, he wants to be out there worse than everyone else wants him to be out there. I can say that with everything I’ve known. It’s going to be a great day, a fun day. It’s going to be exciting.”
Danks admitted that the mental side of things might have been tougher than the physical side when it came to his rehabilitation.
“At times it was, that’s a fair statement,” Danks said. “Just a lot of down time, a lot of alone time. Not being able to pitch, you want to do it, that’s tough. Once I got out of Arizona and realized there was a timetable it got a lot easier. And here we are, hoping for good news.”