Even though John Danks is about to begin his seventh season in the majors, he admits he will have some nerves heading into his first outing in more than a year for the Chicago White Sox.
Danks will make his first start since arthroscopic shoulder surgery in Friday night's opener of a three-game home set against the Miami Marlins.
The left-hander last pitched May 19, 2012, against the Cubs before he was placed on the disabled list six days later. He underwent surgery in August, and had a woeful 16.36 ERA in spring training before posting a 3.18 over four starts at Triple-A Charlotte in preparation for his return.
"It seems like a few years," he said. "I was thinking about that, it's almost a year to the day that I pitched my last game."
Danks, who went 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA in nine 2012 starts, said he will feel nervous Friday.
"I know I will, it's been a long time," Danks said. "I'm excited, this is fun. I've been looking forward to getting back."
The minor-league hitters Danks faced may be comparable to many that he will see Friday against a Marlins team averaging a major league-low 2.7 runs. He is most familiar with Placido Polanco (4 for 24 against Danks) and Miguel Olivo (7 for 22).
Danks said that he progressed well in his rehab outings, and his White Sox teammates are glad to see him back.
"As a friend, I'm happy for him and I hope it goes well," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "But for me, as long as he walks off that field healthy after that game, there's really no bad outing."
Chicago (21-24) can relate somewhat to Miami's offensive woes, with the White Sox averaging 3.7 runs for the AL's second-worst mark.
The club is gaining confidence, however, since it has won six of nine after taking two of three at home from Boston this week.
"It's good for our record, but I think it should be good for our confidence that we belong on the same field as some of these teams,'' said Konerko, who ended a 17-game homerless drought in Wednesday's 6-2 loss. "I don't think we doubt that anyway, but it reinforces it.''
The Marlins (13-34), in contrast, probably don't belong on the field with most teams as owners of baseball's worst record. Miami fell for the ninth time in 11 games as it managed three singles - with only one leaving the infield - in Wednesday's 3-0 home defeat to Philadelphia.
Rookie Marcell Ozuna had one of the infield hits to extend his streak to eight games - the longest by a Marlin this year.
Another rookie, Tom Koehler (0-2, 2.82 ERA), will make his third start and fourth of his career as he still searches for his first victory. The right-hander gave up a leadoff homer Saturday against Arizona, but allowed only two other hits over six innings in a 1-0 home defeat.
"This is something to build off of,'' Koehler said. "Hopefully, next time I can limit the pitch count a little bit more and eliminate some of those three-ball counts. And try to put as many zeroes as possible. That's my goal every time.''
The Marlins lead the all-time series, 5-4.