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July 10, 2010

John Sickels: Prospect Retro: John Danks

Filed under: Chicago White Sox — The Wizard @ July 10, 2010 12:21 pm
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John Sickels:

One of my favorite young pitchers in baseball right now is White Sox lefty John Danks. His minor league track record was rather strange, and he’s a great candidate for a retrospective prospect examination. …

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper taught Danks to throw a cutter (cut fastball) after his 1st year in the majors.

Danks started working on it during the 2007 season:

Danks has been gradually trying to add a cut fastball into his pitching repertoire.His work on this particular pitch began during regular-season side sessions and still is in its early stages, a steep learning curve that can be frustrating at times.

“I’m the type of guy who wants results right away, but it’s a pitch I’ve never thrown before,” said Danks of learning the cutter. “I’m still kind of experimenting with different ways to hold the ball and how to throw it.

“Coop [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] sees me getting frustrated and reminds me it won’t happen overnight. It might take a while, and it’s still a work in progress, for sure.”

Danks has not been comfortable enough to use the new pitch in a game, basically experimenting with the cutter during three different side sessions and when he plays catch every day. But the 22-year-old understands how effective the pitch can be once it is mastered simply by watching fellow southpaw Mark Buehrle in action.

“Mark’s funny, because he’s one of those guys where he’s so good, he doesn’t know how he does it,” said Danks of Buehrle, who has been lending his expertise to Danks in regard to the new pitch.

As he stands presently, Danks throws his sinker inside to left-handed hitters, but primarily uses a four-seam fastball in the same situation to a righty. The cutter will give Danks something that comes in a littler harder to a right-hander.

“It might look like a good fastball to hit and jam a righty,” said Danks, who planned to work with John Wetteland on the pitch in Texas, before Wetteland left for Washington. “It’s really just another weapon against right-handed hitters.

“When I do get it ironed out, it will be a big part of my pitching style. I’m excited to work on it now because it will help a lot.”

and started throwing it in the 2008 season:

Danks does enter competition with an extra weapon, though, a cutter that he began working on last year and has been throwing impressively through the first week of bullpen sessions and batting practice.That particular pitch gets a little more practical use during Wednesday’s contest.

“Exactly,” said Danks of using the cutters to challenge hitters in live-game action. “It’s a good read to see how hitters react to it, and if I can throw it for strikes consistently. So far it has been great, and I feel real comfortable with the pitch.

“I was working on it all last year, and I took what [pitching coach Don Cooper] told me and ran with it. It’s a pitch to get in on the right-handed hitters. I didn’t have anything to get in on them and keep them honest on the inner half.”

You can see it on Danks fangraphs pitch types too.

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