Contract has no effect on Danks' road back

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- During each step of John Danks' recovery process following Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery, from his arm program to his offseason return to the mound, to his regular Spring Training bullpen sessions at Camelback Ranch, the left-hander's focus has been singular.

Get himself ready to be part of the Opening Day rotation.

Never once along that somewhat grueling road was Danks driven by the five-year, $65-million contract he agreed to with the White Sox during the offseason prior to the injury-plagued 2012 campaign.

"No, I haven't thought about the contract," said Danks on Saturday morning. "I want to live up to it and earn it and that's definitely why they gave me that money, because they expect me to be worth that or more.

"So, that's the goal, but just day to day trying to get back, that wasn't much of the issue or any really. I didn't think about it much at all."

Danks, 27, will earn $14.25 million in each of the next four years. He certainly understands the expectations for high-level production such as 2008-10, when he developed into one of the American League's best left-handed starters with three straight years of at least 195 innings pitched, 32 starts and an ERA at 3.77 or better, as opposed to his struggles over the past two seasons adding up to an 11-16 record and 4.66 ERA.

It just wasn't a motivating factor for Danks during the rehab.

"People have a right to expect me to pitch well enough to earn that money, and when I don't do that, they have a right to voice their opinion," Danks said. "But that's not something I've concerned myself with much.

"Really, I'm just trying to get back on the field. Once I get there, then I can start worrying about all the other stuff."

Sunday features another bullpen session for Danks, followed by three live batting practices with two days off in between each one. He finishes with another bullpen on March 1, before facing the Giants in his Cactus League debut on March 4.

If all goes well, Danks will progress with each outing and place himself in position to break camp with the team, as was the plan last August. Anything short of that target will be a disappointment.

"I put in a lot of work this offseason, as have [White Sox head athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] and the doctors and everybody," Danks said. "The goal was to be ready by the start of the season. That was why we had surgery when we did. So, yeah, I would be a little disappointed if I wasn't on the Opening Day roster.

"Like I said all along, that's not my decision to make. My goal is just to make that hopefully an easy decision for them. At least make them consider putting me on there. Make it hard for them not to have me on the Opening Day roster."