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Danks motivated to compete every fifth day

Danks motivated to compete every fifth day

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CHICAGO -- Numerous motivating factors exist in driving John Danks' current comeback from season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on Aug. 6.

The left-handed hurler listed a number of them during a phone conversation with MLB.com from his home in Texas.

"I missed being out there in the pennant chase, and I'm coming off a new deal," said Danks, who made his last start against the Cubs on May 19. "When I was pitching, I wasn't helping the team. And I certainly wasn't helping being on the side. I want to get back and help the White Sox win a World Series."

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Most of these reasons are White Sox related, which defines the "there's no I in team" theory embodied by the 26-year-old. But don't think for a second the southpaw with the most strikeouts recorded and second-most starts made in franchise history over his first five seasons isn't driven by personal pride.

He's an intense competitor, the man who threw eight sterling scoreless innings in the famous "Blackout" game against the Twins that pushed the White Sox to the 2008 American League Central title in the division tiebreaker. His ultimate goal is to get back to that level of excellence during the upcoming 2013 season.

"There's plenty of motivation personally getting back to where I was," Danks said. "I haven't had a good year in a couple of years now. I'm excited to get out there and prove myself. I feel the need to do that."

That need has received a positive push during this past week as Danks began his throwing program on Monday, three days before his Nov. 1 scheduled date as part of his ongoing shoulder rehab. The adjustment, as laid out by the team doctors, White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and with input from pitching coach Don Cooper, has Danks throwing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during November and December to have him on target to start Cooper's mound work on Jan. 1 or 2 and be ready for the start of Spring Training in February.

Danks' workload in regard to the number of throws goes up incrementally each session and the distance from which he throws changes once per week, as he explained. For example, he threw 20 times from 45 feet off flat ground on Monday and then 10 from 60 feet, followed by 25 from 45 feet on Wednesday and another 15 from 60 feet.

Before Danks gets on the mound, he figures to get up to 120 feet in his effort to bounce back from repairs done at RUSH University Medical Center for a capsular tear and minor debridements of the rotator cuff and biceps in his left shoulder. His work Monday marked the first time Danks had thrown in three months.

The layoff left Danks sore but not sore enough where he can't get through his daily rehab work or prevent him from throwing. There's no pain, and with Danks having received a good review from the doctors during a visit to Chicago last week, he's confident in the process.

"I'm still in that period where I'm stretching all the muscles out, so I'm not able to cut it loose or really want to," Danks said. "I'm very confident and pretty much know the injury is healed.

"At this point, I can throw through any kind of aches or soreness. It's breaking up scar tissue or retraining my muscles to throw again, which they warned me about. They said when I first start throwing, I'll feel like I've never thrown a ball before in my life and that's pretty accurate.

"My shoulder felt great," Danks said. "I've just got to get the muscles around it stretched back out. I have a lot of people helping here, I'm in touch with Herm and the doctors and I know we are on the right track. I'm on pace for Spring Training until I hear otherwise."

Bringing back Jake Peavy through a two-year, $29 million extension and picking up Gavin Floyd's $9.5 million team option for 2013 gives the White Sox six quality starters, assuming Danks' positive steps continue. It's a total that doesn't include young arms Dylan Axelrod, Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo, to name a few.

Cooper talked earlier this week about the insulation provided by having the six starters, pointing specifically to Danks. The White Sox don't intend on throwing Danks back out into action at 120 pitches and realize they might have to skip him at times during the season.

All of Cooper's comments were understood clearly by Danks. But his motivation to come back from injury and ineffectiveness is not driven by the idea of making 15 to 20 starts.

"Every five days," said Danks of his pitching designs for 2013, after posting a 3-4 record with a 5.70 ERA over nine starts last season, coming on the heels of his new five-year, $65 million deal that has him earning $15.75 million over each of the next four years.

"You know, that's up to them. It really is," said Danks of skipping a start or two. "There might be times when I need extra days, and we can sit and talk about that. I'm realistic that this is different than other seasons, but I want to be in charge of that and take the ball every time I can. I wouldn't take the ball if I couldn't give the team a chance to win. I want to be smart, not selfish."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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