Danks cranks out a gem

Rookie John Danks pitched too effectively Wednesday to start Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Danks cemented his presence in the White Sox's rotation by allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

"I want to keep this kid fresh all year," manager Ozzie Guillen said after Danks, 22, threw 88 pitches and struck out a career-high seven. "He's a baby. I don't want to overuse him."

Guillen, however, didn't rule out the possibility of bringing back Jose Contreras on short rest to start Sunday even after Contreras threw 100 pitches in an 8-1 loss to the Yankees in the nightcap that started 1 hour 15 minutes late because of rain.

Contreras left with two outs in the seventh behind 4-1. Guillen believes Contreras won't be extended too much Sunday because the interleague game will be played under National League rules that don't employ the designated hitter and because his bullpen is well rested.

Contreras thought he would know more Thursday about his ability to pitch Sunday. If Contreras starts Sunday, he would get an extra day of rest for his next start because the Sox have an off day May 24.

In a more urgent matter, the Sox optioned backup catcher Gustavo Molina to Triple-A Charlotte after the second ď game. Molina got his first major-league hit--a third-inning single off Chein-Ming Wang--but the Sox's lineup desperately needs offensive help, particularly when A.J. Pierzynski isn't starting.

The Sox are expected to activate backup catcher Toby Hall, who was hitting .263 (5-for-19) with two home runs in a minor-league rehabilitation assignment at Charlotte.

Danks (2-4) exploited a Yankees offense that fell to 3-7 in games against left-handed starters.

With the help of a big-breaking curveball and a fastball with "a little juice," as Pierzynski described it, Danks made quite an impression.

"Since he has been here, he has done nothing but get better," Pierzynski said. "Slowly you can see his confidence grow. He never gave up when he lost his first starts because he knew that eventually we would score runs for him."

The Sox have scored 11 runs in Danks' last two starts after he received only four in his first five starts.

"He looks like nothing rattles him, nothing bothers him," Pierzynski said. "That's what you like to see out of a pitcher, especially against the Yankees with the lineup they have. He just stays positive and throws the ball over the plate. That's all you can ask for."

Guillen used Matt Thornton to get the final four outs. Thornton earned his third save.

"[Bobby] Jenks is my closer," Guillen emphasized. "My decision was that I was trying to avoid [Robinson] Cano, and I wanted [Melky] Cabrera to hit right-handed. We were going to keep him all the way to Jeter.

"Thank God Thornton threw the ball good, or else I would have to be crucified about why you didn't bring in your closer by all the managers in this town."

Reliever Nick Masset, who hasn't pitched since May 14, is candidate to start Sunday if the bullpen remains fresh and the Sox don't want to make a roster move. Masset pitched a season-high 4ƒ¦2/3ƒ§ innings April 5 against Cleveland.

The Sox would have to make room on their 40-man roster if they select Double-A Birmingham left-hander Gio Gonzalez to pitch Sunday. Gonzalez is 4-2 with 58 strikeouts and 36 hits allowed in 41ƒ¦2/3ƒ§ innings, but general manager Ken Williams said he is hesitant to have Gonzalez make his major-league debut in a frenzied Sox-Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Gonzalez, 21, made his last start Monday. He never has pitched above Double A.

Another possibility is Gavin Floyd, although Floyd was placed on a 60-pitch limit Tuesday against Columbus in his first start in two weeks with a blister on his right hand.