Danks passes on Classic

Danks passes on Classic

CHICAGO -- John Danks was honored to be considered by Team USA for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he decided to turn down the opportunity.

The 23-year-old left-hander, one of the top up-and-coming pitching talents in the American League, was part of Team USA's provisional roster announced Monday. But through Jeff Berry, his representative, Danks sent a message to the team's powers-that-be on Wednesday that he would not be taking part in the Classic.

"I told them, 'Thanks, but no thanks,'" Danks told MLB.com from his home in Texas. "When I first got the voicemail [about being added to the roster], Jeff and I talked a little bit, and I talked it over with my family. It really would have been awesome, and it's a great honor to be on a team like that.

"My first obligation is to the White Sox. I need to come ready to Spring Training and come ready for a good year. I'm being counted on this year for 200 innings pitched and to give us a chance to win every game."

Danks was joined by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, reliever Matt Thornton and outfielder Carlos Quentin on Team USA's provisional roster. Octavio Dotel is on the Dominican Republic's roster, catcher Cole Armstrong is listed for Canada and non-roster invitee Javier Castillo made the provisional list for Panama.

Thornton told MLB.com close to two weeks ago that he intended to participate in the Classic, calling it an "opportunity where it was very tough for me to say no." Thornton readily admitted that the situation would probably be easier for him to balance with Spring Training preparation as a reliever, as opposed to a starting pitcher, who is building up his pitch count with each Cactus League trip to the mound.

"In all honesty, I can admit that I don't know a whole lot about how much each guy would throw," Danks said. "But coming into Spring Training, I know what I have to do to be ready for the season, and that's what is really important to me."

During Danks' breakout season of 2008, he recorded a 12-9 record with a 3.32 ERA and 159 strikeouts over 195 innings. Danks finished off this impressive season of work with eight shutout innings -- during which he allowed a mere two hits -- in a 1-0 victory over Minnesota in the American League Central tiebreaker contest. He also picked up the team's lone playoff win over the Rays.

Demands placed upon Danks as one of the White Sox three core starters in 2009 will increase, with Javier Vazquez gone to Atlanta and Jose Contreras recovering from a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Those even greater expectations have Danks working out hard once again during the present offseason, and they certainly influenced his decision to pass up playing for his country in the Classic.

Much like Thornton, Danks checked 'yes' when surveyed near the end of the 2008 regular season in regard to his interest in participating in the Classic. And much like Thornton, he never really thought a selection was possible.

"There must have been some other guys they asked first who opted not to play, and I was the last name in the hat," said Danks with a self-deprecating laugh. "Like I said, this really is a great honor.

"If I knew that if I played [in the Classic] and I still would be ready to pitch 200-plus innings and give quality starts every time out ... It's a tough decision to make, and my first obligation is to the White Sox.

"They have given me every opportunity," Danks said. "I want to pitch well for the team, for [general manager] Kenny Williams, for [manager] Ozzie Guillen, for the fans and for everyone else. So it was not an easy decision, but it was the right one."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.