Danks expected to start season on disabled list

Lefty recovering from surgery; Axelrod likely replacement in rotation's fifth spot

Danks expected to start season on disabled list

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura made the educated guesses concerning the start of John Danks' 2013 season all but official following Wednesday's 4-2 White Sox loss to the D-backs at Camelback Ranch.

The White Sox Opening Day starter from 2012 will almost certainly begin the current campaign on the disabled list, with Dylan Axelrod likely moving into the rotation. Danks, who had Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, has been healthy throughout Spring Training, but the White Sox have not seen enough from him in terms of velocity and command.

"Until he gets everything back and can throw everything as hard as he wants and has that velocity, you're just seeing him out there without a lot of his pitches," said Ventura, who added that Danks would work in Minor League games to try to build up that velocity. "He doesn't have the difference in his fastball and changeup to get that. I don't see him, at this point, making the Opening Day roster. So we're making adjustments for that. Again, it doesn't feel right when he's out there."

"His arm is just not bouncing back like he would hope, but he's going to be just fine," said White Sox starter Jake Peavy of Danks. "We feel like we got enough guys here to bridge the gap until we get him back. When we get him back, we want him to be close to the John Danks we all know."

In looking at Danks' current Spring Training struggles, Peavy immediately is reminded of another pitcher who dealt with the same post-surgical Arizona issues.

It was Peavy, of course, in Spring Training '11, coming off 2010 season-ending surgery in July to reattach his lat muscle.

"I got healthy and worked all through the winter and you come to spring and you throw it into the gear we are all in ," Peavy said. "Your body just went through a major change. It takes a while for the strength to be there and for the muscles to be able to recover like they do when they are 100 percent healthy. The biggest thing I think for John is he's not feeling any pain. That's a good sign for us."

Peavy was shut down around this same time in 2011 because of rotator cuff tendinitis and did not break camp with the team. In fact, Peavy didn't make his first 2011 start until May 11 in Anaheim when he went six innings in a no-decision.

A fifth starter won't be needed by the White Sox until April 7 because of an April 2 off-day. But in keeping with the regular rotation, that starter would be penciled in on April 6 at home against Seattle.

Axelrod becomes Danks' temporary replacement, although Ventura wouldn't give 100 percent confirmation to that choice. Axelrod made seven starts for the White Sox among his 14 appearances last season, including a brilliant effort in Baltimore on Aug. 29, when he limited the Orioles to one run over 7 1/3 innings, and produced quality starts at both Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.

Hector Santiago stands as the second option, scheduled to pitch Friday night in Phoenix behind Jose Quintana. His versatility might play better in relief, where the southpaw did everything from starting to closing in 2012.

Santiago originally was on the list to throw Tuesday, but pitching coach Don Cooper said his listing for that day simply was a mistake. After throwing 42 pitches in a "B" game on Sunday, Santiago threw a side session Tuesday and was told to be ready for Friday.

Cooper gave Axelrod the word that he would throw a significant number of innings after Gavin Floyd on Wednesday. He finished with two runs allowed and three strikeouts over three frames.

Even before Ventura's postgame comments, Cooper made it clear that time was running out for Danks to break camp with the team.

"Obviously, the outing yesterday and some of the outings, those aren't the results you're looking for," said Cooper of Danks, who has allowed 27 hits and walked five over 11 innings, while fanning just four. "But John is recovering from surgery. Not even a year through. So we knew this would happen. We knew there would be ups and downs."

If it's indeed Axelrod working the first couple of times through the rotation or for the entire first month, the White Sox have confidence in the familiar replacement.

"Love him," said Peavy of Axelrod. "Axe is going to be prepared. He's going to be mentally in the game. He's going to understand the game plan and be able to follow it.

"Not be in awe of any situation, be able to process what's happening out there and try to make his pitches. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the opportunity he's going to get, knowing his make-up."

Wednesday was viewed as just a normal day after a start by Danks, but he was ready for whatever decision came following a meeting with Ventura. Danks understands it's about what's best for the team and that eventually a healthy and stronger Danks on the mound will be the answer to that search.

"We are here to win ballgames, no matter who is doing that," Danks said Wednesday morning. "I would like to be there but certainly would understand if they wanted me to wait a little bit and someone else was throwing a little better for April or whatever it is."

"Any time you have any kind of surgery, you wonder if it's going to be the same," Peavy said. "We all know it's only been six to eight months since he's had the procedure. You are going to gain strength. He understands that as well. He's throwing now without pain. It's just getting him back strong and getting back and ready."

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.