The White Sox are designating struggling left-hander John Danks for assignment and will replace him with right-hander Erik Johnson, at least temporarily, in the starting rotation.
Johnson will be called up from AAA Charlotte and will start Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
Danks, who is 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA, will be DFA’d later this week. He is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million contract that made him the highest paid player on the roster at around $16 million this season. General manager Rick Hahn, while saying it was difficult to let Danks go because of his history with the club, said the decision was “about winning ballgames.”
“He’s a competitor and he wanted to contribute at the big league level but there was a sense of frustration and disappointment from John but at the same time he understood completely where we were coming from,” Hahn said. “He expressed to me that he felt we have a really good team here and his disappointment is that he won’t be able to contribute to it. He hopes this club will be able to win him a ring is what he said at the end.”
Danks lost every one of his starts, including a 10-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Thursday that halted the team’s six-game winning streak. The Sox are 18-8.
Danks had one decent outing April 21 vs. the Los Angeles Angels (six innings, two runs), but he Danks issued five walks.
It appeared as though he would be fighting for his surival in the rotation Wednesday, when he was scheduled to pitch, but the Sox, rolling to a fast start and believing they have “something special” going on this season, as Hahn put it, would wait no more.
“He was a big part of the chemistry we had going on in here,” pitcher and friend Chris Sale said. “He was a character, a personality. But we have to keep moving. This game stops for no one. It’s the greatest job in the world but it can be cut throat as well.”
Since having shoulder surgery during the 2012 season, Danks had to work with less velocity and his ERA went up about a full point from his pre-surgery days. He was 22-44 and has pitched to ERAs of 4.75, 4.74 and 4.71 in three full seasons. This season his 7.25 ERA came with 11 walks and 28 hits allowed over 22 1/3 innings.
“He’s bummed about it,” Sale said. “I texted him last night. He was going to leave early this morning and I said you have to come by and say goodbye to the guys.
Danks, 31, had been the longest-tenured member of the team, arriving in December 2006 in a trade with the Texas Rangers. Danks, a first-round pick by the Rangers in 2003 (ninth overall), was acquired along with pitchers Nick Masset and Jake Rasner for pitcher Brandon McCarthy and outfielder David Paisano.
“At the end of the day we had to let winning ballgames and what’s going on on the field prevail and that’s why we made the move,” Hahn said.
Said manager Robin Ventura: “It’s probably time for him, too. Everybody knows how that goes, if you can roll off a few good [starts] and then the one bad one, everybody’s going to go back to the one bad one. It’s always tough. You don’t really know what’s out there, but at this point, we’re going in a different direction.
“As far as work ethic and just guts, he had all of that. That was never a question. He’s always been able to do that and there’s a lot of respect for him in the clubhouse for all the things that he did and one of them’s coming back from an injury and trying to gut through it.”
Hahn said the rotation situation is fluid, meaning Johnson’s start Thursday doesn’t mean he’s hear to stay. Jacob Turner and Miguel Gonzalez are also at AAA Charlotte. Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum, recovering from hip surgery last year, is holding a showcase Friday, which the Sox are expected to attend along with at least a dozen teams.
Johnson has a 3.74 ERA over 21 2/3 innings at Charlotte, where he earned International Pitcher of the Year honors in 2015 with a 2.37 ERA over 132 2/3 innings.