White Sox

Derek Holland finally gets a confidence booster after two frustrating months

Derek Holland finally gets a confidence booster after two frustrating months

It was only a small step, but Derek Holland will take it.

The White Sox pitcher emphasized that Wednesday’s effort had its imperfections — he walked four batters and the White Sox lost.

But for the first time since the middle of June, Holland also was able to exit a start without ripping his hair out. Holland allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched. Given how nine of his previous 10 starts have gone, saving those follicles for another day is just fine. Holland made his first quality start since June 13, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from topping the White Sox 5-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Holland said. “The whole time me and (Don Cooper) and (Curt Hasler) have been talking about this is it’s going to be a process. It’s not just going to happen overnight. Granted, it’s been a while. It is only one start. I’m not going to sit here and get super excited. I still have to continue to keep pitching. Being consistent is what it’s all about.”

Holland has been consistent since the start of June, just not the way he’d prefer. Over his past 10 starts, the left-hander carried a 9.46 ERA, which ballooned his season mark from 2.37 to 5.42. He’d put 92 runners on base in that span and yielded 17 home runs over 45.2 innings.

The frustration of those efforts had caught up with Holland, who after his previous start on Friday night said he needed to step up his “s---.”

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Wednesday’s contest had a different feeling though as Holland worked in and out of traffic for six innings.

“Made a few adjustments,” said catcher Kevan Smith, who went 2-for-3 with a walk. “Just kind of attacked the hitters, two out of the first three strikes. Kind of expanded a few pitches because he gets in trouble a few times when he runs back over the plate. Just kind of varied where I was setting up on the plate and we just kept the upbeat pace and attacking hitters mentality and very successful today.”

Holland didn’t think he made vast changes to his game plan. He’s always focused on getting ground balls. But the left-hander did think he adhered better to the approach the White Sox wanted to take.

“It just felt like execution was better today than probably in the past few starts,” Holland said. “The main thing is, you can’t get caught up in those things. Whether you’re a groundball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher, whatever, you still have to go out there and keep your defense on their toes and let them make the plays happen. I felt like today I kept those guys on their toes where they needed to be and the execution was way better.”

Both Holland and the White Sox would love if this is the beginning of a trend. Healthy once again, Holland is headed for free agency after the season. But the White Sox would love to cash in before that and potentially trade the left-hander before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

To get there, however, Holland would have to maintain the consistency he had over his first 10 starts when he posted a 2.37 ERA.

“Good outing,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Great outing, actually. Into his last inning, down 1-0, obviously gives up a solo homer to Pearce, but gosh, he did much better today. A lot of ground balls, made a lot of pitches when he needed to and gave us a chance.”

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

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Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

The Cubs made the Jose Quintana deal knowing it would have been more difficult to give up Dylan Cease if he was already performing at the Double-A level, and that the White Sox organization would be a good place to continue his education as a young pitcher.

While Eloy Jimenez keeps drawing ridiculous comparisons – the running total now includes Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz – Cease is more than just the other name prospect from the deal that shocked the baseball world during the All-Star break.

“We still project him as a starter,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during this week’s GM meetings in Florida. “He certainly has the stuff where it’s easy to envision him as a potential dominant reliever. But to this point – for the foreseeable future – we deal with the starting and continue to develop him as a potential front-end arm.”

The Theo Epstein regime still hasn’t developed an impact homegrown pitcher, but that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from winning 292 games, six playoff rounds and a World Series title across the last three seasons, while still being in a strong position to win the National League Central again in 2018.

Without Quintana and his affordable contract that can run through 2020, Epstein’s front office might have been looking at the daunting possibility of trying to acquire three starting pitchers this winter.

While surveying a farm system in the middle of a natural downturn, Baseball America ranked seven pitchers on its top-10 list of prospects from the Cubs organization: Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, Brendon Little, Thomas Hatch and Jen-Ho Tseng.

So far, only Alzolay, an Arizona Fall League Fall Star with seven starts for Double-A Tennessee on his resume, and Tseng, who made his big-league debut in September, have pitched above the A-ball level.

Cease – who went 0-8 with a 3.89 ERA for Class-A Kannapolis in his first nine starts in the White Sox system – has a 100-mph fastball and a big curveball and won’t turn 22 until next month. That stuff allowed Cease to pile up 126 strikeouts against 44 walks in 93.1 innings this year, putting him in the wave that includes Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

“Ideally, we have a lot of guys we project to be part of the future, very good, championship-caliber rotation,” Hahn said. “In an ideal world, there’s not going to be room at the inn for all of them. You only have five in that rotation and some of these guys will wind up in the bullpen. In reality, as players develop, you’re going to see some attrition.”

One spot after the White Sox grabbed Carlos Rodon with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cubs did Kyle Schwarber’s below-slot deal, using part of the savings to buy out Cease’s commitment to Vanderbilt University ($1.5 million bonus for a sixth-rounder) and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Cease was never going to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, and now the White Sox hope he can be part of the foundation on the South Side, where it’s easier to sell a rebuild after watching the Cubs and Houston Astros become World Series champions.

“It doesn’t change really for us internally in terms of our commitment or focus or our plan or our timeline or anything along those lines,” Hahn said. “I do think, perhaps, it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and how long the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series (was). In Chicago, many fans saw it firsthand with the Cubs.

“There are certainly more and more examples in the game over the last several years to help sort of show fans the path and justification for what we’re (doing).”

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

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USA TODAY

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

The White Sox continued their rebuild Thursday by trading for an intriguing young right-handed pitcher.

The South Siders acquired Thyago Vieira from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.

The 24-year-old Vieira is a Brazilian native and has only made one appearance in the big leagues, striking out a batter in one perfect inning of work in 2017.

While his career minor-league numbers don't jump off the page — 14-19 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 13 saves and 7.4 K/9 in 290.2 innings \— Vieira has been reportedly clocked at 104 mph with his fastball and was ranked as the Mariners' No. 8 prospect at the time of the deal. He also held righties to .194 batting average in 2017.

Here's video of Vieira throwing gas:

And this may explain why Vieira was even available:

Control has been an issue throughout his career, as he's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in the minors. He has improved in that regard over the last few seasons, however, walking only 22 batters in 54 innings across three levels in 2017 and he doled out only one free pass in 5.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

What does this deal mean in the big picture for baseball? How did the Sox pull off a move like this while not having to give up a player in return? 

This may help shed light on the situation from Baseball America's Kyle Glaser:

Either way, the White Sox may have just acquired a guy who could potentially throw his name in the hat for "future closer." Or at the very least, throw his name in the hat for "best name."