By Bruce Levine
(CBS) -- It has been a rocky road indeed for White Sox starter John Danks. Recovering from a shoulder surgery that had only been performed once before on a major league pitcher was a radical enough assignment; reinventing himself as a crafty sinker-slider pitcher has been the biggest challenge for the friendly Texas native.
Danks has had an up-and-down season with just middling results. The 29-year-old former power pitcher has worked at his trade with patient pitching coach Don Cooper. Danks has tried to command the many nuances of the art of pitching that at times has almost been like learning a foreign language as an adult.
"I think every pitcher has to go through changing the way he goes about his job at some point," Danks related. "I just had to do it earlier than some others. The theory in baseball is there are only so many bullets in your arm. Eventually you lose velocity and you lose sharpness. You learn that after a while not every pitch you throw to get a hitter out has to be as hard as you can throw it. The game for the pitcher is more about location. At times recently that has gotten away from me and burned me. My world now is less about stuff and more about location."
Danks had a solid first half of the season. He is now two years removed from the shoulder surgery. The numbers this season are 9-11 with a 5.05 ERA. Danks has not had a winning season since going 15-11 in 2010. Since that break out season the left handed pitcher has a combined 24-41 record .He signed a five-year $65 million contract before the 2012 season. Danks was hurt in May of 2012 and had surgery in August.
"No, I don't feel any better about living up to the contract." Danks said. "I don't think about it much but I am very aware that some people put there neck on the line for me. To this point I have not made them look good but I still have two years I can make up for it."
The results have certainly varied all season, still Danks, despite some down times recently, has put forward 17 quality starts in 29 appearances.
"I think he will continue to improve," said manager Robin Ventura when asked if Danks fits into the rotation plans in 2015. "He has made some adjustments but I also think there is a ways for him to go. I know even in his mind, he feels he will get better at some things. We know he has the ability to do that."
The greatest challenge Danks has had to battle is forgetting about the power pitcher he once was and living in the here and now of trying to out think the hitters Danks once could dominate with a 94 MPH fastball.
"That was and has been the biggest battle of this whole thing," he said. "We have talked about it a lot. We work on certain things on the side that are spot on. You get into the action and you try to carry what you had in the bullpen into the game. You have the lights on, a man in the box and you can't help gripping the ball a little tighter."
With the Sox grooming another young left-handed ace in Carlos Rodon, it is unclear whether the team will try and move Danks in the offseason. Four lefties in the rotation seem like too many. For now, Danks will continue try and prove to himself and the organization he can get the job done.
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