Danks focused on present as contract year begins

Danks focused on present as contract year begins

OAKLAND -- It would be understandable for John Danks to wax a bit nostalgic about what could be the beginning of his final White Sox season, with this Friday's home-opener start against the Cleveland Indians on the immediate horizon.

But the consummate pro and clubhouse leader hasn't let future thoughts invade the present since he found out about the date for his initial 2016 trip to the mound.

"Truthfully, no, I hadn't even thought about it," Danks said. "When I found out I was throwing, I was excited. It will be a good atmosphere and should be fun. The focus the last few weeks has been on Cleveland and getting the season off on the right foot.

"I want to finish this contract strong, and it's a big year for me, obviously. We all know how I've been the last few years. In my mind, I need a good year or this is it. That's kind of my motivation. So, like I said, I'm focused on Cleveland, trying to give us a chance to win."

Danks has this present season remaining on a five-year, $65 million extension. He has made 62 starts and pitched a total of 371 1/3 innings over the past two seasons, but as the veteran southpaw mentioned, he wants to be more than an innings eater with an ERA in the 4.75 range.

Fixing a pitch-tipping problem that was recognized by catcher Dioner Navarro helped Danks during Spring Training. He also felt something click midway through his Arizona work, giving him a boost.

"Go out there and feel good and throw strikes, get the swing you want," Danks said. "I've been pleased. I felt like I'm getting a lot of balls on the ground, whether that's for outs or hits. Get as many balls on the ground, and I'll take my chances."

Despite the forecast for morning showers, wind and a high of 42 degrees on Friday, Danks' family will make the journey for the sold-out home opener. The 30-year-old hasn't let the chilly forecast affect his outlook.

"I don't enjoy the cold, by any means," a smiling Danks said. "But certainly, on my day I want it to be as cold as possible. I feel like it's more of an advantage for the pitcher the colder it is. I'm not real concerned about the cold, to be honest. I hope it's 20 degrees and sleeting."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.