On Sunday in Peoria, Danks receives that initial Cactus League opportunity against the Padres, after working four games out of the bullpen. Gavin Floyd, the right-hander battling Danks in the rotation competition, is scheduled to follow Danks, as the two flip-flop their roles from Tuesday's game against Texas in Surprise.
"Nothing can or should be read into that, because the last time Gavin started," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "Now, we're going to give Danks that start.
"The reason we're doing that is to be as fair as possible and letting a guy start in his natural element -- they've always been starters. So let's give them that preparation, come out early, get ready for the game, start the game and give each guy that opportunity."
Although Cooper went out of his way to not declare Danks as the frontrunner, mentioning Charlie Haeger as still a strong part of the mix, anyone watching the competition knows Danks has edged ahead. Not only are his numbers better, with a 2.00 ERA in four games compared to Floyd's 8.38 ERA over three starts, but Danks has shown greater command and aggressiveness in attacking the strike zone.
Ultimately, those qualities could make a Major League difference for the 21-year-old Danks. Cooper believes all the candidates are being prepared adequately for the regular season and still feels a decision doesn't need to be made until the last week of Spring Training.
Judging by Cooper's comments, Floyd still must bounce back from a rough outing against the Rangers to tighten the competition.
"Every day it seems like, it's kind of like a horse race or something," Cooper said. "It looks like right now -- with no decisions being made -- that Johnny Danks has been climbing and maybe pulled ahead by a nose. But, that can change in five days and that's the way it's going to be.
"Let's face it. If you're just watching that game [Tuesday], Gavin had a tough one and Danks had another good one. That's the bottom line. If Johnny Danks continues doing what he's doing, he's going to put himself in a real good spot to be picked as that guy.
"But if Gavin picks himself up after a tough outing that we read nothing into and say, 'Hey, that's a tough outing, let it go by and get ready for the next,' then the race continues," Cooper added.
Step in the right direction: Aside from a sinus problem not unfamiliar for people visiting the Tucson area, Scott Podsednik reported absolutely no physical problems after his first spring appearance on Wednesday.
"No soreness at all, I feel really good," said Podsednik, before taking part as a designated hitter in an afternoon Minor League game during the club's lone spring off-day. "I tried to take all the necessary steps yesterday to prevent any type of soreness for today.
Through the urging of conditioning coach Allen Thomas, Podsednik stayed loose during 15-to-20 minute intervals between his at-bats as a designated hitter Wednesday by running and stretching on the side. The next step for Podsednik is a start in left field against the Cubs on Friday, with Podsednik leading off and Darin Erstad hitting second possibly resembling the lineup's look at the start of the season if Podsednik continues to progress.
"I'll tell you what, I feel as good as I can feel right now," Podsednik said. "I don't want to say that I was expecting it to be a little sore, but I didn't know how it was going to respond."
Minor work, major improvement: Since Thursday marked Mark Buehrle's day to throw, the veteran southpaw was out on the back fields of the Kino Sports Complex at 9:30 a.m. MT, starting a Minor League intrasquad contest. Buehrle yielded four hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings, striking out six and not issuing a walk, as he completed his work by throwing 60 of the 85 pitches for strikes.
Buehrle cruised through two of his innings so quickly that Cooper extended them out by a couple of batters. After struggling with his cutter during last Saturday's outing against Colorado, during which he allowed six runs on six hits, Buehrle felt more comfortable Thursday against hitters from the White Sox organization.
"A lot of times you face these guys down here, Triple-A, Double-A guys, and they seem to be harder to get out than those in the big-league games," Buehrle said. "They see a big-league guy, and it seems like they try even harder. Getting these guys out is definitely a plus. I built innings up, pitch count, confidence."
"The bottom line is this: pitch total? Yes. Results good? Yes. Quality pitches up? Yes," added Cooper of Buehrle. "A lot of people will say he threw good, yes, but he threw good in a Minor League game. I don't look at it that way."
Around the horn: Jon Garland is scheduled to pitch Monday against Kansas City in Surprise and Buehrle is set to go Tuesday against Oakland in Phoenix. But both pitchers might stay back to pitch in Tucson, according to Cooper, meaning Haeger would get the start Tuesday. "It will be a huge game, if that's what we are going to do," Haeger said. ... Thomas Collaro, an outfielder who struggled with Double-A Birmingham in 2006, had two of the hits off Buehrle. David Cook doubled home the only run. ... Buehrle took a one-hop shot to his No. 56 off the bat of Chris Getz but reported no serious pain after the game. "I flexed on it, tried to catch it, but I couldn't," said Buehrle with a smile. "It's a little sore, but nothing huge."
Up next: It's Round 2 of the Cubs-White Sox spring rivalry, with Javier Vazquez starting Friday at Tucson Electric Park.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less