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Danks returns, Sale skipped; Santiago to 'pen?

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Hector Santiago pitched well enough to stay in the starting rotation in the Wednesday night loss to Boston, throwing six innings and allowing just two runs on three hits, but this is all about need right now for the Sox, and that's why Santiago looks like the odd man out -- eventually.

The team announced on Wednesday that John Danks will make his 2013 debut on Friday, capping off the long road back from shoulder surgery that saw him last pitch in a big-league game over a year ago, and then having surgery on the pitching shoulder in August.

With Danks in and the team announcing after the Wednesday loss that lefty reliever Donnie Veal was optioned down to Class AAA Charlotte, that left Matt Thornton as the sole southpaw in the bullpen. That's why it now appears Santiago will return to the bullpen spot he held down at the start of the season. Santiago, however, is subject to stay in the rotation after the White Sox announced left-handed starter Chris Sale will miss his scheduled Wednesday start because of tendinitis in his left shoulder. According to manager Robin Ventura, the injury isn't believed to be serious and there was no MRI done. The hope is to have him back for his next start on Tuesday.

As Santiago's role sways in the balance, it becomes even more apparent why he was nicknamed him "Swiss Army Knife" because of his versatility.

"I feel like I've only had one bad start," Santiago said of his time in the rotation. "But it's about being more efficient if you're going to be starting. But I've kept us in most of the games and given us a chance to win. They have to make a decision, and I'll be ready for anything."

Dylan Axelrod was the other option to be pulled from the rotation, but they are sticking with the right-hander for now, with Santiago lurking just in case.

Danks' return against the Miami Marlins Friday night comes with tempered expectations, but the long-term goal is he'll ascend back to workhorse status. Danks made four rehab stats, including three at Class AAA Charlotte. He posted a 3.18 ERA in those outings, despite walking 13 and striking out 15 in 22 2/3 innings.

The last hurdle that Danks has had to cross was building the velocity on his fastball, and while it admittedly might never be the same as it was before surgery, it's close enough. The Sox want to see Danks develop more into a pitcher, and the hope is that not being able to rely on a 93- to 94-mph fastball will help do that.

"I'm excited. It's been a long time, a long recovery," Danks said. "You know, to get back here and feel like a part of the team, feel like a big-leaguer again. Now I got to go out there and try to win us a ballgame."

Danks will be watched closely, and will likely be on somewhat of a pitch count, but Ventura didn't want to commit to specifics on that front. The rotation will now be Danks, Jake Peavy. Axelrod and Jose Quintana. If Sale returns next week, he'd fall between Peavy and Axelrod. If not, Ventura will be reaching for his Swiss Army Knife.

As far as the new look of the bullpen, Santiago would be the long reliever, as well as a lefty specialist, while Thornton remains a late-inning set-up arm.
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