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Danks will draw Santana in debut
The postponement of Friday night's game against the Twins because of cold and wind was good for the White Sox's pitching staff, except perhaps John Danks.
With the unexpected day off, Danks will make his major-league debut Sunday against Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana instead of Saturday against Twins fifth starter Sidney Ponson, who will be skipped in the rotation.
"That's not my desire," Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said of throwing the rookie lefty into the fire, "but it's best for Danks to get out and pitch. There's the old saying that he's not facing Santana, he's facing the Minnesota Twins lineup."
The other choice was to skip Danks and let No. 1 starter Jose Contreras face Santana. But Cooper's plan for the last two years has been to keep a five-man rotation intact.
"It gives Danks a fair opportunity to show what he can do," Cooper said. "It's difficult to be skipped and not sure when you're going to pitch."
One obvious upside to the decision is that Mark Buehrle gets an extra day to let the bruise on his left forearm he suffered Thursday heal. Buehrle had been scheduled to start Tuesday before getting hit by Ryan Garko's line drive.
"Buehrle looked OK [Friday]," Cooper said. "We'll know a lot more [Saturday]."
Here's the way the rotation sets up, barring another postponement: Javier Vazquez vs. Carlos Silva on Saturday, Danks vs. Santana on Sunday, then Contreras, Jon Garland and Buehrle for the three games in Oakland.
And if Buehrle's arm is still sore? Vazquez or long reliever Nick Masset could step in, given the off day Thursday.
"But we're pretty sure he should be able to go [Wednesday]," Cooper said.
Getting Friday off also could work wonders for a bullpen that has thrown more than 70 percent of the team's innings in the first three games.
"Actually, we would have been fine playing," Cooper said. "Everybody was ready for their spots."
As for Contreras, who faced only 12 batters as the Indians battered him on Opening Day, and Garland, who was touched for five runs in 51/3 innings in the second game, Cooper remains confident.
"I never stop having confidence in my guys," he said. "The only time I do is when they quit, and we don't have any quitters on the staff.
"Contreras made terrible pitches. Garland had one bad inning. We talked while he threw a sideline session [Friday], and I continue to see him climb from spring training to the end of spring training to now. He'll be all right unless the last two years (36 victories) is a mirage.
"The bottom line is, our starters are the guys who have the biggest responsibility on the pitching staff, because they're in charge of the bulk of our innings. Yeah, it was only two games, but when you have two games like we had, it is unacceptable. You get a little testy."
So Cooper has asked his pitchers to start proving the naysayers wrong.
"Everybody has us written off already," he said. "That's probably good because we can turn that into a positive. We all know it has been difficult, but don't listen to all that stuff around town."
For Danks, the former Rangers first-round draft choice, it will be especially difficult because he will be measured constantly against Brandon McCarthy. The two were the centerpieces in a five-player trade last winter. McCarthy is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA, though he pitched against the Angels' Ervin Santana, not the best pitcher who shares that last name.