KANSAS CITY. Mo. – Encouraging performances Thursday from Hector Santiago and John Danks could present the White Sox with an odd scenario at the end of May.
They could have four left-handers pitching well enough to form the bulk of the rotation including Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.
Santiago could force the issue with continued performances like his 5 1/3 innings of two-hit ball against the Rangers under emergency conditions. Santiago, who originally took the rotation spot of injured Gavin Floyd, moved up one day when Jake Peavy was scratched because of back spasms.
“He has done everything for us since he has been here – close, middle [relief], long [relief], start,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “And his day to start is here.”
Danks, meanwhile, believes he’s close to rejoining the Sox after pitching seven innings of five-hit ball against Chattanooga in his first minor league rehabilitation start for Double-A Birmingham.
“I’m not far off,” Danks said. “I need just one or two more starts. I can’t wait to get back.”
Danks, who is recovering from left shoulder surgery on Aug. 6, will make his next rehab start Tuesday at Columbus while pitching for Triple-A Charlotte.
“There’s still climbing going on with everything,” Cooper said. “But [Danks is] inching closer, that’s for sure.”
The most encouraging aspects of Danks’ performance is that his velocity climbed to 91 mph, he needed only 86 pitches to throw seven innings, and he was able to spot his fastball and cut fastball effectively to right-handed batters.
Danks has been a starter his entire career, so there’s no thought of him returning as a reliever. The Sox currently have just one left-handed reliever in Matt Thornton.
There have been no public discussions of a six-man rotation. At the same time, Danks will be careful about rushing back because of the injuries to Peavy and Floyd, who could decide next week to undergo surgery on his right elbow.
“The news on Gavin bums me out,” Danks said. “But my focus has been on coming back, and not [before I’m ready]. I want to come back when I know I can get big league hitters out.”