GLENDALE, Ariz. – John Danks reinforced Sunday that he will need much more time to regain strength in his surgically repaired left shoulder, and Dylan Axelrod showed signs he’s preparing for more than just a one-start stint in Danks’ place.
With Danks admittedly trying to regain his low-90s fastball, Axelrod worked more on specifics than results in a minor league game Sunday in an apparent sign he has all but secured Danks’ spot as the White Sox’s fifth starter.
When asked if he had been told by pitching coach Don Cooper he was going to be the Sox’s fifth starter, Axelrod responded with a smile.
“Not firmly,” Axelrod said. “I don’t know what the official word is, they haven’t told me anything, so I’m going about my business.”
When asked if he would travel to Chicago with the team when it leaves Arizona on Wednesday night, Axelrod kept smiling.
“They haven’t told me anything,” Axelrod replied.
Manager Robin Ventura indicated Axelrod is the likely choice to be the fifth starter but said, “Again, we can wait on that for a little bit.”
The fact that Axelrod threw 62 pitches on shorter rest is one potential sign he’ll be the fifth starter on April 6 and perhaps longer.
Left-hander Hector Santiago, who struck out five in three innings Friday, is scheduled to relieve Chris Sale on Tuesday. But pitching coach Don Cooper said last week Sale will throw only two or three innings against the Rangers in preparation for his opening-day start April 1 against the Royals.
Ventura said Sunday that Danks will remain in Arizona when the Sox leave Wednesday. But Danks won’t be joining the 25-man roster soon. His velocity remained in the high 80s, and he struck out only one of the 19 batters he faced.
“My game is changing speeds,” said Danks, who allowed home runs to Cody Puckett, Trayce Thompson, Kevan Smith and Brady Shoemaker. “I’ve never been a high-velocity guy, I need more velocity than I have now to make that gap a little bigger. If I can get back to 91, 92, that’s what I’ve always been. I’m not expecting much more than that. I definitely have a ways to go.”
Axelrod worked on backdoor cut fastballs and changing the eye level of batters with high fastballs. He allowed a home run to Stefan Gartrell, but said he was pleased with his work and that he’s ready if he receives more than one start.
“Going through the minor leagues every fifth day, I got a lot of innings in and I feel durable and take care of myself, so it works to my advantage,” Axelrod said. “I have a good routine, so if I get that opportunity, I think it will be beneficial for me going every five days.”