The Chicago White Sox apparently gave in to the inevitable concerning the season-long saga of starting pitcher John Danks, scheduling exploratory surgery on his left shoulder next week. The shutting down of the 27-year-old lefty brings his season to a close and raises more than a few questions.
The MLB.com report detailing the move stated that August 1 was the deadline team doctors had placed on Danks to be ready to make some rehab starts in hopes of a return this season. Over the weekend, Danks arrived at the decision to undergo surgery and shoot for a clean slate in 2013.
The questions begin in the front office:
1. Has Kenny Williams prepared his ballclub for what is now turning out to be the worst-case scenario?
With the non-waiver trade deadline passing yesterday, fans got a look at Chicago's latest pickup.
Francisco Liriano struck out eight former teammates, allowing two runs in six innings. Liriano did not pick up a decision, but posting a quality start in what became a 4-2 White Sox winner was a good start to his time on the South Side.
If the majority of Liriano's starts go like Tuesday, it will help offset Danks not being an option from here on out.
2. What does the future hold for Danks?
Going into last season, Danks had a bright outlook going into his fifth season. He was coming off of a 15-11 season and was a player the White Sox were looking to lock down.
Two years later, he does have a big-money deal (five years, $65 million) but has struggled mightily and currently has a shoulder ailment that is yet to be diagnosed. Will Danks be able to start living up to the terms of his deal, or will surgery find a more serious issue?
3. Is there more to Hector Santiago stretching out in Charlotte?
Santiago was demoted to make room on the roster for Liriano, and word is that Santiago will be starting for the Triple-A Knights. With the left-hander throwing longer stints for Chicago recently, is the club stretching him out as a possible spot starter later this month?
Dylan Axelrod seems to be a candidate for a return if a starter is needed. Chicago may just want to give Santiago more opportunity to develop his screwball and other pitches.
4. Can the White Sox win the AL Central in Danks' absence?
Seeing as how they have contended all summer without him, the answer is yes. However, more pressure is now put on young arms in the rotation like Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. It also hinges on the effectiveness of Gavin Floyd, Phillip Humber and now Liriano.
5. Can someone step up and be the ace of this staff down the stretch?
One of the starters could provide a jolt to the team by raising his game in the last two months. With Sale being limited in his workload, that role could be filled by Jake Peavy, who has pitched well despite just an 8-7 record.
Peavy getting hot and reeling off three or four wins could start Wednesday afternoon in the series finale in Minnesota. X-factors in all of this could well be Floyd and Liriano, who have the pitches to carry the staff if they can consistently harness their stuff.
As Danks awaits definitive word on the extent of his shoulder problems, the rest of the staff must continue to carry on. Hopefully Danks is set to have a solid 2013, but the White Sox have to keep their sights on the present.