Danks taking small steps with each start

CHICAGO -- The five-inning, 77-pitch effort from John Danks during an extended spring game Thursday in Arizona was deemed "a bit better" than his previous starts from the reports White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper received.

That positive sign doesn't translate into the left-hander getting closer to a big league return. It's a rehab work in progress to raise his velocity and improve his command after Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, and while there's no timetable placed on his comeback, it could take Danks two or three months before he rejoins the White Sox rotation.

"A long story short on John, it's going to be a start-by-start thing," Cooper said. "We all saw the last time we saw him in Arizona and he's got some work to do and a climb ahead of him.

"Things are coming a little bit. But as far as how long and what it is, I don't think anybody has the answer to that. Right now we need to see a little bit more and let John get the time that he needs."

When asked for the Thursday positives from Danks, Cooper opened with his velocity being up a bit up from the mid-80s where it consistently resided during Spring Training. He threw more strikes and had a workable pitch total over his five innings.

"Again, a little step forward I would call it," Cooper said.

Danks will throw again on Monday and there is not even a set time frame for him to make Minor League rehab starts outside of Arizona. Dylan Axelrod gets the first shot at the No. 5 spot on Saturday, with Hector Santiago and Minor League pitchers Simon Castro, Andre Rienzo and Erik Johnson standing as a few of the internal options.

One of the biggest challenges for Danks is to stay motivated as he fights to return through this extended process. Danks already put in plenty of hard work during the offseason simply to be ready for Spring Training, but at just eight months removed from surgery, he has much more work ahead of him.

"He's ahead of schedule but he needs more time. This is a shoulder injury that nobody knows the answer to these things," Cooper said. "We are all going to hear it on an every five to six day basis."

"It's not an easy situation for anyone. The DL is not a fun place to be for him trying to work his way back," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He worked as hard as anyone to get ready to break with us at the beginning of the season. It just didn't happen. He wasn't back to what he was before and that's the hard part, to be able to stay focused in that rehab to make it all the way back."

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.