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A.J. Pierzynski’s homer lifts White Sox; John Danks out for year

John Danks went 3-4 with 5.70 ERA nine starts this season. His last game was May 19. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

John Danks went 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA in nine starts this season. His last game was May 19. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 2, 2012 6:24AM

MINNEAPOLIS — It became apparent quite some time ago that something was amiss about John Danks’ left shoulder. The MRI exams showed it was OK, but Danks knew otherwise.

It was apparent in his body language and the fading optimism in his voice every time he talked about how his strained left shoulder felt.

On Tuesday, the Sox’ medical and training staff gave up on solving the mystery and announced that Danks will have exploratory surgery Monday in Chicago. The Sox hope to have Danks ready by the start of spring training next year.

“It’s tough,’’ Danks said Tuesday. “Obviously, this whole time, this has been the absolute last resort. We’ve been going on eight, nine weeks, and we haven’t made improvements that we hoped and thought we’d be making. You do what you got to do.’’

Danks, the Opening Day starter and heir apparent as staff leader to Mark Buehrle after he signed a five-year, $65 million extension last offseason, hasn’t pitched for the Sox since May 19 against the Cubs. He might have pitched too soon when he threw four innings in a minor-league rehab assignment for Class AAA Charlotte on June 12 because he wasn’t right shortly after that.

Danks, 27, made nine starts this season, going 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA. Without him, the Sox have built a 2½-game lead on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.

“These guys are playing well enough this year without me and getting [Francisco] Liriano [in a trade with the Minnesota Twins on Saturday] certainly helps,’’ Danks said, “and I definitely think there’s plenty here now that me being out isn’t going to kill this team. I’ll be a cheerleader for the next two months, three months hopefully.”

The Sox gave Danks enough to cheer about in a 4-3 victory. Liriano gave up two runs in six innings, and A.J. Pierzynski broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run homer on an 0-2 hanging slider in the ninth against Jeff Gray. It was his second homer in two games since missing five with a strained right oblique.

“I figured I gave them one yesterday and maybe I could get one back for us today,’’ said Pierzynski, whose throwing error in the ninth inning Monday set up the winning run for the Twins.

Liriano, meanwhile, processed some odd feelings walking to the visitors’ dugout in the park that still feels like home.

“It was weird the first couple innings,’’ Liriano said. “I was excited, probably overthrowing the first two innings. I calmed myself down and tried to do my job and be part of the team and enjoy myself.’’

Alex Rios, batting .361 with 27 RBI in his last 31 games, had a double and single and scored his second run on Pierzynski’s homer. Pierzynski, who was hit by a pitch from Nick Blackburn with two outs and none on in the seventh, scored the tying run after singles by Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez (RBI).

Matt Thornton (3-6) pitched a perfect eighth, and Addison Reed gave up an RBI single to Denard Span (4-for-5) in the ninth before getting Joe Mauer on a grounder to first baseman Paul Konerko to end the game.

Konerko bobbled the Mauer ball, then stumbled before flipping to Reed, who made a barehand grab for the putout. Konerko rolled his ankle on the play but said it’s OK.

Danks’ shoulder is another matter. At least now he won’t have to answer questions about it for a while.

“It’s disappointing for him, I know that,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “With the way he was feeling and the timing of it, it’s time to go in and find out what it is and take care of it.’’

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