COMMENTARY | John Danks impressed in his long-awaited return to the mound in Friday, May 24's extra-inning win over the Miami Marlins. Last May, after struggling in his first run of starts, Danks hit the disabled list. After failing to respond to rest and rehab, he underwent surgery at the hands of Dr. Anthony Romeo, the same doctor that repaired Jake Peavy in a one-of-a-kind surgery.
His return comes on time and as expected, following several starts in the minor leagues. Miami could not be a more perfect opponent for his return, as their rebuilding lineup without star Giancarlo Stanton is lacking in much MLB-caliber firepower.
Taking advantage of the weak Miami offense, Danks held the Marlins to 3 earned runs over 6 pitch-efficient innings. The stat line indicates just an okay start, but Danks was in fact in control for the entire start. After allowing his first base hit in the fourth inning, he surrendered a home run to Derek Dietrich. He followed up with two more strong innings, leaving with just 76 pitches in the top of the seventh following a leadoff double.
As expected, the velocity in this outing was a tick below what Chicago White Sox fans are used to from John Danks. While he is recovered enough to pitch competitively, it will be a while longer before he is completely back to normal. After averaging around 91 miles per hour on his fastball in his career according to FanGraphs, he touched 90 only infrequently in his first start.
Despite the recovering velocity, there were many positives in his return outing. He used his long-abandoned curveball more than he has since he was a rookie, though he did initially struggle commanding it. His cutter, the pitch that has led to him ditching the curve, was lively and effective. The changeup looked as good as it ever has, displaying surprising amounts of movement and deception.
Beyond that, his pitch efficiency and ability to pound the strike zone was admirable. If it hadn't been his first MLB start in over 12 months, he likely had a chance to finish the game given his low pitch count. After dealing with some control issues in the minor leagues, he did not walk a batter against Miami. His 5 strikeouts aren't eye-popping, but it shows that he has regained some ability to miss bats.
With all that being said, it is important not to take too much from an outing against a weakened Miami team. Danks was often imprecise with his command and got away with leaving pitches up in the zone, especially his changeup. He constantly fought his fastball command, missing up out of the zone frequently.
Early on, Danks was quite clearly battling his nerves. He could be seen glancing up at the speed gun after his first few pitches. This is all understandable and he is lucky that the Miami hitters were unable to take advantage of these early struggles.
Moving forward, it is not fair to expect more outings in which John Danks more or less dominates the opposing team. He showed flashes of that ability in his first start, but he also showed serious vulnerabilities that division opponents like Detroit will take advantage of. Luckily for Danks and the White Sox, they will not see Detroit until July.
Until then, fans should feel encouraged by Danks' outing. However, there will be more lumps to be taken along the way than just 4 hits across 6+ innings.
Nonetheless, John Danks proved that he is healthy and belongs in MLB once again. For the White Sox, this mission is accomplished just by those facts alone.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- John Danks
- Miami Marlins