CHICAGO -- The five-inning, 77-pitch effort from John Danks during an extended spring game Thursday in Arizona was deemed "a bit better" than his previous starts from the reports White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper received.
That positive sign doesn't translate into the left-hander getting closer to a big league return. It's a rehab work in progress to raise his velocity and improve his command after Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, and while there's no timetable placed on his comeback, it could take Danks two or three months before he rejoins the White Sox rotation.
"A long story short on John, it's going to be a start-by-start thing," Cooper said. "We all saw the last time we saw him in Arizona and he's got some work to do and a climb ahead of him.
"Things are coming a little bit. But as far as how long and what it is, I don't think anybody has the answer to that. Right now we need to see a little bit more and let John get the time that he needs."
When asked for the Thursday positives from Danks, Cooper opened with his velocity being up a bit up from the mid-80s where it consistently resided during Spring Training. He threw more strikes and had a workable pitch total over his five innings.
"Again, a little step forward I would call it," Cooper said.
Danks will throw again on Monday and there is not even a set time frame for him to make Minor League rehab starts outside of Arizona. Dylan Axelrod gets the first shot at the No. 5 spot on Saturday, with Hector Santiago and Minor League pitchers Simon Castro, Andre Rienzo and Erik Johnson standing as a few of the internal options.
One of the biggest challenges for Danks is to stay motivated as he fights to return through this extended process. Danks already put in plenty of hard work during the offseason simply to be ready for Spring Training, but at just eight months removed from surgery, he has much more work ahead of him.
"He's ahead of schedule but he needs more time. This is a shoulder injury that nobody knows the answer to these things," Cooper said. "We are all going to hear it on an every five to six day basis."
"It's not an easy situation for anyone. The DL is not a fun place to be for him trying to work his way back," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He worked as hard as anyone to get ready to break with us at the beginning of the season. It just didn't happen. He wasn't back to what he was before and that's the hard part, to be able to stay focused in that rehab to make it all the way back."
Too early to be concerned by De Aza's slow start
CHICAGO -- A 1-for-12 showing, along with five strikeouts, would not exactly be the blueprint drawn up by Alejandro De Aza to start the 2013 season. But fellow outfielder Alex Rios has cautioned the White Sox leadoff man not to put too much stock in that early batting average.
"Actually, we just talked about that the other day," Rios said. "I told him that people worry about the first couple games of the season and he shouldn't worry. It's so early that it really doesn't even matter. But he's going to hit and he's a great hitter. Having him in the leadoff spot, it's going to make the team so much better.
"The difference changes so quick in batting average this early. There are so few at-bats that you get. But if he gets two or three hits tonight, his batting average will be way up there. He shouldn't be worried. He knows what he can do and we know what he can do. So he should be fine."
Manager Robin Ventura mentioned that De Aza has featured a good approach at the plate, but just hasn't got the hits to fall in.
"You have to be tough enough mentally to stay with it," Ventura said.
And according to Rios, who had five singles in his first 11 at-bats, a quick start's most important characteristic is the confidence boost it provides.
"If you feel like you are doing things right and your swing is where you want it to be, that's all that matters," Rios said. "When they start falling and you have that confidence, you mix it together and it's all good. Right now, I feel very good. I feel like I am where I need to be."
De Aza went 2-for-5 and launched a two-run homer in the fifth inning Friday night and Rios followed with solo shot.
Disciplined Konerko climbing club's ranks
CHICAGO -- The discipline and hard work used by Paul Konerko to reach 2,137 hits with the White Sox reminds many of the style in which current manager Robin Ventura played the game. They both were true leaders by example.
With a wry smile, though, Ventura said Konerko clearly is the better player.
"He's a better player and that carries more weight. His longevity shows that," Ventura said. "Everybody is different, but for him there's a method to what he does and what he believes in and what he feels he has to do before he goes to the plate. A lot of people can have that and not have the talent. He has the talent.
"When you have a guy like him, people see what he's doing. He's always been like that. He is a leader. He doesn't have to scream. He does it by example. If he has something to say, he'll say it, but most of it is by example."
Konerko moved past Frank Thomas for third place on the club's hit list with an RBI single -- No. 2,137 -- in the fourth inning Friday night against the Mariners.
Konerko knows his swing about as well as any hitter in the American League, but admits he's always tinkering to refine it or even find it at some points during the season. He's always a team-first guy but took the time Friday to talk about his name being associated with the Big Hurt.
"Frank's the best hitter that's ever been in this organization, so just to have that in a category where you're tied with him ...," Konerko said. "No. 1 is just being out there a lot and showing up to the play. I'm proud of that.
"Some of that stuff can get skewed a little bit. I don't know what the at-bats are. I think I played longer here than he did maybe by a little bit now. He walked so much because guys were afraid of him, so he had less at-bats to actually swing the bat. There are things you factor into it. But it's cool nonetheless, any time you get mentioned with a guy that's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer here soon.
"Obviously, the biggest key for any hitter is trying to be as disciplined as you can to the work every day coming in here," Konerko said. "It sounds easy, but it's hard to come in every day year after year and keep doing it, get your work in the right way. And to go out there and compete, that's basically it. And there's a lot of luck."
Pitchers start taking hacks with Interleague on tap
CHICAGO -- White Sox pitchers took their swings during early batting practice on Friday, in preparation for Tuesday's Interleague opener against the Nationals in Washington, D.C.
Playing in a National League park means the White Sox will lose a top hitter such as Adam Dunn or Dayan Viciedo. But manager Robin Ventura wasn't inclined to get into the designated hitter for both leagues discussion even with his lineup's power reduced.
"We're built with it so it's hard to say," Ventura said. "For some guys, it's a position that extends their careers. It would help everyone in the AL, but I don't see it happening any time soon."
Ventura added that his pitchers seem to be excited about getting the chance to hit against Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren.
Third to first
• Ventura mentioned that Konerko probably will get Saturday off, with a 12:10 p.m. CT first pitch following Friday's night game. He also said that switch-hitter Hector Gimenez would get the start at catcher with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on the mound.
• Trayce Thompson homered for Double-A Birmingham in its 5-2 season-opening victory at Montgomery on Thursday.