Danks adds link to starters' chain

CHICAGO -- Now that the Chicago White Sox's pitching is better, the trick is to keep the engine humming until the main cog in the offense returns next week.

Jose Abreu's absence was felt Friday in a 4-1 defeat to the San Diego Padres, as the offense was unable to break through against Ian Kennedy. The White Sox struck out nine times against the Padres' starter and scored their only run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.

John Danks still managed to keep things interesting as most White Sox starters have done for nearly the past two weeks, or ever since Chris Sale came back from a sore arm.

Chicago starters now own a 2.19 ERA over the past 10 games, while opponents are hitting .200 off the rotation in that stretch. Making those numbers even more impressive is that the starting staff is getting key contributions from Andre Rienzo and Hector Noesi, who was a waiver claim as a reliever a month ago.

"They've come along," manager Robin Ventura said. "I think as banged up as we were for a while there, with Johnny coming on the way he is, Hector and Andre picking up the slack and starting to progress, I think they're getting stronger as we go along. Where we're at right now you stay with them and we have confidence when they go out there."

Danks himself has been a question mark at times. He had given up eight runs in two starts this month alone. But his past two outings have been more like the Danks of old.

Against the New York Yankees last week, the left-hander gave up only three hits and no runs over eight innings. And on Friday against the Padres it was another quality start as he gave up two runs and eight hits over seven innings.

"I, for the most part, was able to get the kind of contact I wanted," Danks said. "Obviously I made some mistakes and got burned for them, but all in all it was a good day."

There was more hard work between starts that helped Danks to flourish. Before the outing against the Yankees, Danks worked with pitching coach Don Cooper three separate times on mechanical changes. Before Friday's outing he worked two times with Cooper.

"It was just little adjustments," Danks said. "Coop has seen me enough to know when something's up and he's done a good job of recognizing that and help me get it back. I feel good. I feel comfortable out there. I just got outpitched tonight. That's the way it goes."

Moving forward, Rienzo will get a chance to rebound from his first loss of the season Saturday. No players on the Padres roster have faced the high-energy right-hander from Brazil. On Sunday, Sale will get a chance to shine. He has given up only one hit over nine innings since he returned from the DL.

When the White Sox head West on Monday, Jose Quintana is scheduled to kick off the trip against the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Abreu is expected to be there to back him up with offense.

It was early in the season when Abreu had Chicago's offense churning out runs in impressive fashion. Now that Sale has put a spark into the pitching, the White Sox could be days away from seeing all parts of their game in action at the same time.

It may or may not be time for the White Sox to make a little run, but it will make them stronger to absorb a tough schedule in early June that follows the matchup against the Dodgers with series against the Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.

"We need to score runs though," center fielder Adam Eaton said when asked about the solid starting pitching. "We like to be quick on defense and come in and sit awhile and hit a little bit. Definitely, defensively it gets you involved.

"I don't know if statistics show it, but I would imagine that when quicker innings happen, better plays are made behind you. Guys are into the game and usually you come in and you hit a lot. We really enjoy that. We love the intensity and the pace of the game and hopefully we can continue."