Danks gets a taste of the big time

Danks gets a taste of the big time

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- John Danks was by himself an hour before the game, sitting quietly in the Rangers clubhouse with country music flowing through the headphones.

He had Pat Green singing in his ear but Barry Bonds was dancing through his mind.

Half of the Giants lineup is off playing in the World Baseball Classic but Danks, 20, making the Spring Training start, knew who was batting fourth at designated hitter on Tuesday.

"Really he was the only player in their lineup I knew was starting," Danks said.

Across the clubhouse, catcher Rod Barajas knew it would be a big moment for the Rangers' prized left-hander, who has never pitched above Double-A and just now only beginning to make his presence felt within the organization.

"I just want him to enjoy it," Barajas said. "You never know if he's going to face him again. You don't want to put too much into it, you just let his natural ability take off."

A couple of hours later, Danks was still smiling, even though Bonds got the best of him in the Giants' 3-2 victory over the Rangers.

Bonds, in just his third game this spring, singled in the first inning and then, in the fourth, hit a towering fly ball to right that just disappeared beyond right fielder Brad Wilkerson's reach and over the fence for a home run.

"I thought Brad might get it," Danks said. "Then I turned and saw Barry had already gone into his 10-step walk. When you see him walking like that, he knows when he's hit one out."

That said, it was still a memorable afternoon for Danks, who allowed two runs in four innings. He gave up four hits and two walks while striking out two in his fledging bid for the fifth starter spot. He'll remember Bonds the most.

"It was awesome," Danks said. "I talked to other guys and they said it was a rush. After the first at-bat, I was hoping to face him again. I wasn't trying to give up the home run but it was fun.

"I had to take a step back. You look at him and it's really Barry Bonds, the same guy on television, the guy who hit 73 home runs ... big, standing on the plate. I was a little star-struck at first but after that, my competitiveness took over and I wanted to get him out."

And Bonds' thoughts on Danks?

"I don't make those kinds of evaluations in Spring Training," Bonds said.

In the first at-bat, Danks went right after Bonds with all fastballs.

"I was very confident," Danks said. "The whole Spring Training I've been riding on Cloud Nine. I had all the confidence in the world."

Bonds took the first pitch for a ball, then fouled two fastballs off, one into the seats beyond the Rangers' third-base dugout and one straight back.

That ran the count to 1-and-2 and Danks threw another fastball.

"I wanted to strike him out," Danks said.

He didn't. Bonds slammed a line drive up the middle just above Danks' glove and head for a single.

"It looked like a beach ball, coming at me in slow motion," Danks said.

In the dugout, pitching coach Mark Connor suggested Danks try his other pitches the next time he faced Bonds.

"The thing I liked is he didn't approach Bonds any different than any other hitter," Connors said. "He attacked hitters all day. It wasn't like he was picking at the plate."

Bonds and Danks met again leading off the bottom of the fourth. Danks threw a first-pitch changeup for a strike, then a curve that also cut through the zone. Ahead 0-and-2, Danks missed inside with a big curve and then went back to the changeup.

Bonds hit it out.

"The first thing that crossed my mind was: 'Not the first time, not the last time,'" Danks said. "He's third all-time in home runs. I was trying to strike him out. I had him 1-2 on both at-bats and couldn't do it. Well, maybe next time."

There may not be a next time. When the regular season starts, Bonds will be in the National League and Danks will likely be pitching somewhere north of Arlington, either Double-A Frisco or Triple-A Oklahoma.

By next spring, Bonds' career could be over and Danks' could be just getting started with the Rangers. The paths that crossed Tuesday may be a one-time thing.

But the Rangers found out something about Danks in his two confrontations with one of the greatest power-hitters of all time.

Said manager Buck Showalter, "You like the fact that John was looking forward to today instead of having anxiety about it."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.