It's not every day a $65 million pitcher finds himself throwing on a back field against minor leaguers. Still, there was White Sox left-hander John Danks on Sunday morning, trying to stay positive and keep his spirits up.
That wasn't easy after four Chicago minor leaguers homered off Danks in a camp game. Cody Puckett, Kevan Smith, Trayce Thompson and Brady Shoemaker all took Danks deep over a fence not even marked with distance signs.
Later in the day at Camelback Ranch, the White Sox lost 8-2 to Kansas City before a stadium crowd. Jeremy Guthrie pitched six strong innings and Alex Gordon hit his fifth home run as the Royals improved to 21-7, the best record of any team in spring training.
"We're playing pretty good baseball right now. We're swinging the bats," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "Started out a little bit slower, but we always pick up some steam when we need it."
The Royals appear poised to challenge the AL champion Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. The White Sox, who were far less active during the offseason than division rivals Cleveland and Kansas City, were counting on Danks to bridge the gap between them and Detroit.
But Danks, who had surgery in August to clean up his left shoulder, is far from major league-ready with a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 80s mph range. Dylan Axelrod or Hector Santiago will take his place in the rotation to begin the season while Danks starts on the disabled list.
"My game is changing speeds," Danks said after his 66-pitch workout. "I've never been a high-velocity guy, but I need more velocity than I have now to make that gap (between the fastball and off-speed pitches) a little bigger. If I can get back to 91, 92 (mph), that's what I've always been. Not expecting much more than that. I definitely have a ways to go."
After struggling through four Cactus League starts, Danks was moved to a schedule of work against minor leaguers. He was optimistic in February that he would break camp with the team and be there on opening day when the White Sox host the Royals. The good news for Danks is that his shoulder feels good.
"Obviously, we thought we'd be there at this point but it just didn't work," said Danks, who signed a $65 million, five-year contract before last season. "We're at the mercy of my shoulder. We're doing everything we know to do and hopefully sooner than later we'll be ready."
Guthrie, who signed a $25 million, three-year deal last November to stay with the Royals after being their best starter down the stretch in 2012, extended his mastery of the White Sox — who scored one earned run against him in 29 1-3 innings last season. Guthrie did not walk a batter, struck out eight and was harmed only by Jeff Keppinger's RBI single in the first and Alejandro De Aza's first homer of the spring in the fifth.
After Keppinger's single, the White Sox had two runners on with no outs but Guthrie struck out Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Dayan Viciedo. Konerko struck out twice and was 0 for 3, ending a nine-game hitting streak.
NOTES: Former Royals ace Zack Greinke will pitch against his old team at Surprise Stadium on Monday night for the Dodgers. Greinke (elbow, flu) hasn't pitched in a Cactus League game since March 1. Wade Davis will start for the Royals. ... White Sox RF Alex Rios missed his second consecutive game with lower back stiffness. He is receiving treatment and hopes to play Monday against the Angels.