Notes: Danks has priorities in place

Notes: Danks has priorities in place

TUCSON, Ariz. -- If John Danks wasn't working through the most important three weeks of his young career, then returning to Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday to face the Rangers might mean a little more to the left-hander.

But with the White Sox fifth starter's job clearly within his reach, Texas' first-round pick from the 2003 First-Year Player Draft is focused more on the here and now than the Round Rock native's hometown roots.

"Where I'm sitting right now, in terms of the fifth spot and whatnot, that definitely overshadows going back to Texas," said Danks, who was traded to the White Sox along with right-handed pitchers Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner in exchange for Brandon McCarthy on Dec. 23, 2006.

"Obviously, if I was in a different position, it would mean a little more facing Texas," Danks added. "But right now, it's all about just getting outs. I'm not worried about what the other uniform says."

Although White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen have listed Gavin Floyd as the starter for Tuesday's road contest, Danks said Monday that he wasn't sure whether he would begin the game or pitch in relief. Then again, where Danks pitches doesn't matter as much as how he performs.

Working in relief of Jon Garland last Friday against the Diamondbacks, Danks allowed two singles over three scoreless innings. Two double plays allowed him to face the minimum nine hitters.

Four innings apiece stands as the target Tuesday for both Floyd and Danks, as the White Sox look for one of their young hurlers to decidedly step forward and take hold of the roster opportunity. For the 21-year-old Danks, the challenge certainly hasn't jumbled his nerves.

"Oh, this is great -- more exciting than nerve-wracking," Danks said. "I'm getting my chance now to play in the Major Leagues, my dream, and I'm trying to make the best of it."

Searching for Sammy: Danks spoke Monday of a close friendship with Josh Rupe, a right-handed pitcher sent from the White Sox to the Rangers as part of a Minor League package for Carl Everett in 2003. The two talked Sunday night with Tuesday's game on the horizon.

When asked about a former player or two on Texas' Major League roster he would like to face, Danks did not point to any of his old teammates. Instead, he expressed hope for Sammy Sosa to still be in the opposing lineup when he stepped to the mound.

"It will be fun to see Sammy Sosa, for sure," Danks said. "I faced Barry Bonds last year, and now I get to face another home run king, so that will be a good challenge."

Bonds homered and singled off of Danks in their head-to-head Cactus League matchup last spring.

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No issue: It's a safe bet that White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Texas starting pitcher Vicente Padilla won't shake hands and exchange pleasantries prior to Tuesday's game. Not after Padilla drilled Pierzynski with two consecutive pitches in two separate at-bats during a June 14 contest last year at Ameriquest Field, leading to Guillen's highly publicized reaction when Sean Tracey missed on an attempt to retaliate.

But Pierzynski, who will get his first serious look at both fifth starter candidates, clearly believes there's no ill will aimed at him from the Texas hurler.

"Not as far as I'm concerned, but you would have to ask him that," said Pierzynski, who faced Padilla on July 23 of last season at U.S. Cellular Field without any further incident. "I guess we'll find out tomorrow at 1 o'clock."

Pierzynski is hitting third in Tuesday's lineup.

Fraternity brother: Cooper looks at Bud Black, San Diego's first-year manager, and applauds the rare jump he has made from pitching coach to the team's highest position of authority. Cooper believes he could some day make the same move.

"If I had the right people around me, I could handle it. It would be a heck of an opportunity," Cooper said of managing. "I've never been given a job in my life that I couldn't get it in time. Once I get the lay of the land on something, I feel good.

"You learn a long time ago that you need good people surrounding you to handle all the other jobs. And in 1995, when I saw [Terry] Bevington, I realized how important a manager and a leader really are.

"My passion is pitching," Cooper added. "I don't know if there's an unwritten rule that catchers become good managers and not many pitching coaches get a break. I'm happy to see Bud Black get the chance, and there's no reason to think others couldn't do it."

A special shave: Bobby Jenks sported a wild, red hairpiece before and after he had his head shaved as part of the St. Baldrick's Foundation annual drive to raise funds for kids' cancer research. The act also was done in conjunction with the eighth graders at Most Holy Redeemer in Evergreen Park, Ill., where they all shaved their heads as a show of support for classmate Michael Healy, who is battling bone cancer.

Tracey and Andrew Sisco, Jenks' teammates and friends, also had their heads shaved. Tracey's actions also were done in honor of Eric Pintard, his summer pitching coach with the Santa Barbara Foresters, who lost his battle with cancer.

Sticking around: A two-run, ninth-inning home run from Luis Terrero on Monday served as just one example of why the outfielder remains in play for the last spot on the White Sox roster. The right-handed-hitting outfielder could be affected by the team's decisions to keep 11 or 12 pitchers and Scott Podsednik's physical condition.

"We think real high of Terrero, and he's in the mix," Guillen said. "We have to make a couple of decisions, and one of the big ones is him.

"With this kid, he's going to be [considered] all the way to the end, and he has a lot of things we like. I hope he continues to play the way he is playing."

Around the horn: Jim Thome launched a mammoth clout over Tucson Electric Park's 40-foot center-field wall in the seventh inning Monday against Royce Ring, the White Sox 2002 first-round pick, and added another blast in the ninth. Juan Uribe also homered off of Ring. ... Geoff Blum, who delivered the game-winning home run for the White Sox in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, visited the visiting clubhouse prior to Monday's game. Blum doubled home a run during the Padres' four-run seventh inning off of David Aardsma. ... Robert Valido homered and Jerry Owens and Casey Rogowski had two hits apiece in Monday's "B" game against the Mariners. Matt Thornton struck out two and gave up two earned runs over two innings.

Up next: The fifth starter's battle moves to center stage Tuesday afternoon in Surprise, when Danks and Floyd take on the Rangers. Charlie Haeger starts the "B" game for the White Sox back in Tucson.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.