John Danks isn't the same pitcher he used to be. Danks regularly touched 95 mph with his four-seam fastball before battling left shoulder issues in 2012 that led to surgery.
Now fully healthy, Danks has been dealt the same fate as other pitchers coming off major surgery: his velocity isn't what is used to be. But that's not the issue for Danks, who will look to turn around his recent struggles when he and the White Sox take on Vidal Nuno and the Yankees on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I think it's been more mechanics, not being too high in his release point, arm slot," said catcher Adrian Nieto of Danks' recent struggles. "There's no doubt in my mind he can pitch at 90, 91 because his secondary stuff is that good. I don't think it's a velocity thing as it is more of mechanics, him being more direct toward the catcher."
Danks has sandwiched a pair of poor starts around two quality starts. He gave up eight runs on 10 hits on May 2 in Cleveland, before rebounding to post quality starts his next two times out, at home against the Cubs and at Oakland. He was then hammered his last time out, in which he allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in Houston on Sunday.
Nieto said Danks looked like himself against the Cubs. He noted that Danks has thrown sideline sessions three straight days and that Danks has been "putting in the work" with pitching coach Don Cooper to cure his flagging mechanics. The key is for Danks to get back to consistently repeating the proper motion.
"You can tell when he stays in line, the pitches have more bite and he hides [the ball] more," Nieto said. "I saw it, as opposed to when he comes off his front side, he shows the pitch before he's about to release and he leaves it up, and they're not as sharp as him staying in line toward the plate."
Danks will have to contend with Yangervis Solarte, who is enjoying a breakout season in the Majors after eight Minor League seasons. The 27-year-old rookie has hit .310 with an .870 OPS in 41 games, most of them at the position formerly held by Alex Rodriguez.
"I think the overall feeling was that guys were really happy for a kid who persevered to get to that point," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Solarte's long journey to the Majors. "But now you expect him to put up good at-bats, and you don't think much about it. When he smokes a ball, hits a double, you just say, 'Oh, that's Solo.'
"He gets deep in counts, squares the ball up, he walks. They've just ben really consistent. He's not a guy that's up there just hacking away. He has a plan when he goes up there and you can see it."
White Sox: Sierra relegated to bench role
Moises Sierra was claimed off waivers by the White Sox because of a lack of outfield depth caused by injury, and quickly took advantage of his opportunity. Since Adam Eaton returned from the disabled list on Sunday, though, Sierra has lost some playing time.
Sierra was released by the Toronto Blue Jays after he had just two hits in 34 at-bats, but went 4-for-4 in his first start for the White Sox and is hitting .297 overall with his new club. He started 10 of 12 games between May 6-19, but has only seen action the past four days as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner.
Alejandro De Aza, meanwhile, begins Saturday with a .178 average, but has played over Sierra the past few games. Is it as simple as a platoon between the right-handed-hitting Sierra and lefty De Aza?
"There's parts of that," Ventura said. "When we first got [Sierra], Eaton was out, that was the role he was in. Right now, he's a fourth outfielder, so he'll get some time."
Yankees: Girardi looks to keep Texeira fresh
Girardi played Kelly Johnson at first and slotted the Gold Glove-winning Mark Teixeira at DH on Friday in an effort to keep his slugger fresh.
"There's good communication," Girardi said. "I ask sometimes, 'Do you need a DH day,' and he'll tell me, 'No, I don't." I just try to keep on top of it and stay proactive with it, so we keep him healthy."
Johnson, an eight-year vet who has played the vast majority of his games at second base, has played 17 of his 20 career starts at first base this season. He struggled at first base on Friday, committing an error in the first inning and letting a grounder go under glove in third that was ruled a hit. Nonetheless, Girardi wants to get at-bats for Johnson, who has struggled to a .200 average and consequently lost playing time at third because of Solarte's emergence.
"I'm happy for [Solarte], but in terms of my stuff, I'm still trying to do well and trying to have good at-bats, trying to put up numbers, trying to do everything I can when I do play," Johnson said. "I've said it all along, someone told me a long time ago, 'If you do well, you play.'"
• Chicago is 14-8 against teams at or above .500 compared to an 11-17 mark against teams with a losing record.
• The White Sox have won eight consecutive home games over the Yankees dating back to 2012, the longest streak since June 1972-July 1973 (nine games).
• Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is 0-7 with a 5.13 ERA in his last 10 road starts.
• New York is 3-8 in its last 11 games against the White Sox.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.