CHICAGO -- It has been a whirlwind few months for Hector Santiago, who went from the roster bubble at the start of Spring Training to the team's Opening Day closer and back to middle relief at the start of May.
But the left-handed reliever seems to have found a comfort zone via six scoreless outings over his last seven appearances, reducing his ERA from 7.36 to 4.50. That newfound zone was brought about by a great deal of pregame work and a renewed focus on location.
"I've been throwing a lot in the bullpen before games and early during batting practice, mostly just trying to get both sides of the plate down," Santiago said. "I've been a power guy to the inside part of the plate to right-handers and away to lefties. I used to be the opposite way. I used to be away to righties and in to lefties.
"That wasn't my strong suit. I worked so hard at going the opposite way, not really forgetting it but got away from it, not doing that. That's a big thing to work on, dominate both sides of the plate with my fastball and all the pitches."
Santiago admits a pair of blown saves in six opportunities were frustrating, with the southpaw plagued early by four home runs. But he got through it and forgot about the tough times.
"I just went out there with the same attitude and grinded it out and tried to pick up my slack," said Santiago, who still would like to get ahead of more hitters. "I'm battling and I'm getting the job done right now."
Danks has no explanation for poor results
CHICAGO -- The concerns have become numerous for John Danks and not exactly inquiries with a positive tone.
Through Monday night's tough three-plus innings against the Tigers, the talented left-hander has posted a 6.46 ERA over 47 1/3 innings. It's the highest ERA after eight starts in Danks' six-year career, even higher than a 2011 season featuring an eventual 0-8 start.
"I feel like I'm throwing the ball worse now than I was then," Danks said. "At least last year I was throwing the ball decently, just not getting the wins."
Danks has an 0-3 record and 8.34 ERA at home, although he admitted postgame Monday that he hasn't pitched well at U.S. Cellular Field or on the road. But one sign of concern or possibly even a red flag is Danks' two strikeouts over his last three games, against seven walks.
There's no physical problem for Danks, who said he feels great. But when asked Tuesday about the strikeout downturn for a man who averaged 143 per season over his first five seasons, a frustrated Danks had no concrete answer.
"I've thought about it, and I don't know. I really don't," Danks said. "It's definitely something that can help. There's nothing bad that can happen with a strikeout. I don't have an answer for it. I don't have any idea.
"Getting strikeouts just means I'm throwing the ball where I'm trying to throw it. I'm making the ball do what I want it do. That hasn't been the case consistently so far."
Much like last year, Danks puts all the struggles on his shoulders but also like last year, the 27-year-old will do everything possible to turn this inconsistent start into top-of-the-rotation results. Danks might get a boost from his Saturday start at Wrigley Field, where he has a career 1.38 ERA with 14 strikeouts and no walks in 13 innings.
"He'll be fine," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn of Danks. "He's pressing a little bit. I'm no pitching coach by any means or a psychologist, but I know how John is and while he's struggling, he just kind of needs to be himself and have fun."
Dunn set to play left field at NL ballparks
CHICAGO -- Even at the 36-game mark of the new 2012 season, Adam Dunn still is being asked about how it feels to get off to such a good start following last year's miserable White Sox debut. And Dunn tries to interject a little humor into his reply, while adding in a serious tone that he's not satisfied simply by topping last year's home run total in early May.
"It feels good, I guess. Good would be the word," said Dunn. "There are some good things going on but a lot of bad things for me right now. Hopefully, we get those cleaned up and keep producing."
Dunn will have the chance to keep producing during this weekend's Interleague series at Wrigley Field, with the designated-hitter spot unavailable at a National League ballpark. Manager Robin Ventura reiterated Tuesday that Dunn will play left field all three games, even if Dayan Viciedo builds on his four-RBI performance in Monday night's victory.
"You look at your lineup and how important he is," said Ventura of Dunn, who is hitting .292 with seven homers, 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored over his last 14 games and is on pace to hit 54 homers with 126 RBIs. "He has been batting third for us most of the time and that becomes a factor of being able to get him in there.
"I've seen him in the past and you realize he has a lot of power. He will strike out but just getting on base, he walks a lot, he's always in the middle of things when they happen offensively. That's a sign of the guy that's important to your lineup."
Crain reinstated from disabled list; Stults DFA'd
CHICAGO -- Prior to Tuesday afternoon's contest with Detroit, White Sox reliever Jesse Crain was returned from his injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Charlotte for a strained left oblique and activated from the 15-day disabled list. Left-handed hurler Eric Stults was designated for assignment in the corresponding move.
Crain was placed on the disabled list April 27, retroactive to April 21, and made two successful rehab appearances before his return.
"I didn't want to go into a game and it's still bothering me or I'm thinking about it where it affects the way I pitch," said Crain of making the rehab trip to Charlotte. "So being able to go down there and throw in some non-stressful games to make sure I'm there was good for both parties."
Third to first
Robin Ventura was asked Tuesday to give himself a managerial grade through the first 36 games of the season. In staying true to his team-oriented leadership, the White Sox manager declined.
"I'm not going to sit back and assess what I'm doing," Ventura said. "It's about coming here every day and doing the right thing. I'm not going to give myself a grade. I have bosses that will do that. If it's not going well, I won't be here.
"There are things you go through, but the most important part is the staff you have, how you interact. The questions, going back and forth, the ideas of how things can work better. What works, what didn't work. That's the part that until you're in this position you don't understand getting better at it."
Ventura smiled but would not bite when asked for his assessment of Wrigley Field.
"I'm not going there," said Ventura, drawing much laughter. "It's fine. It is an old stadium, but it's a fun stadium to play in. I enjoy playing there. The amenities aren't great, but we are just playing baseball." The White Sox have not won a series since April 20-22 in Seattle, going 0-5-2 in their last seven, following Tuesday's 10-8 loss to Detroit.
#149; White Sox pitchers have an 8.70 ERA over the last four games.
Former big league pitcher Jim Abbott threw out one of Tuesday's ceremonial first pitches to Ventura.