With very few position battles to figure out on the field, and even less drama off of it, the Chicago White Sox's spring camp is more about jumping over small hurdles rather than watching huge storylines develop.
The biggest of those small hurdles? Getting John Danks up and running after a lost 2012 in which he finally had season-ending shoulder surgery in August.
Danks, who signed a $65 million contract extension only months before his shoulder gave out, took the mound and faced live hitters Feb. 20, inching back on the rehab process. Battling poor weather in Glendale, Ariz., the southpaw threw 50 pain-free pitches under the cover of the indoor batting cages at the facility, and he reported after that there were no setbacks or concerns.
Just don't write his name in the season-opening rotation just yet. That's the approach second-year manager Robin Ventura was preaching.
"As long as he's progressing, you're happy," Ventura said. "I don't know much you get out of pitching in the cage, but it's progress, which at this point is great to see. No pain and he was free and easy, and that becomes important."
Important enough that all eyes were on Danks, as pitching coach Don Cooper, Ventura, and even new general manager Rick Hahn were all watching closely.
"It's going to be on (Cooper) and Robin as we go forward to sort of make sure he's not biting off more than he can chew," Hahn said of the Danks' rehab process. "He feels strong; he looks great; he's eager. That's all wonderful, but we still need to put a little bit of governor on him so we can hopefully get him through seven months."
As long as Danks stays on schedule, he is scheduled to pitch in a Cactus League game on March 4, facing the champion Giants. Even if he answers the bell all the way through spring training, that doesn't mean Danks will necessarily be given the nod to break camp with the big-league team. There's a good chance that because of the cold weather awaiting the Sox, they might leave Danks in extended camp and allow him to throw in controlled situations until mid-April.
"Coop just told me I'm exactly where he wants me," Danks said after his first spring session. "I take that as I'm doing everything they want me to do, but I think I'm on pace to be ready to go. Like I've said all along, it's not my decision, but things are coming along great."
The Sox feel as if the starting staff is the strength of the team, and with Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Jose Quintana and Gavin Floyd all up and running. The team can use Hector Santiago to fill in a start or two for Danks, and then switch him out when Danks is ready.
"We're still building arm strength, and that will come," Danks said. "But as far as health, I'll throw as hard as I want. And I've been cleared by the doctors, and I'm past that mental block of cutting it loose. I feel like we're at that point now where we can start working on pitching rather than trying to get back healthy."