White Sox

Jose Quintana, bullpen lead White Sox to third straight win

quintana-sox-insider-0414.png

Jose Quintana, bullpen lead White Sox to third straight win

CLEVELAND -- The offspeed stuff wasn’t there and his pitch count soared but Jose Quintana had run support and a hot bullpen at his manager’s disposal.

The starting pitcher and catcher Tyler Flowers quickly changed strategies and did enough to pass the baton as the White Sox downed the Cleveland Indians 4-1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night. Jose Abreu homered and the trio of Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson struck out eight in three innings as the White Sox earned their third straight victory.

“Q was erratic,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It wasn’t really the control that you’d like to see. But he battled.

“He’s a strong kid, he battles and at least gets you to the point where you can get the bullpen in there. He bobbed and weaved as well as he could.”

Quintana said the cool, crisp air gave him trouble as he couldn’t grip the ball how he would have liked. More than a handful of times, Quintana appeared to lick his left hand to get a better feel.

While he had no trouble throwing his fastball, Quintana struggled to locate his curve, only throwing it for eight strikes in 24 tries.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“I feel uncomfortable with my hands,” Quintana said. “I try to fight every inning and keep the game close and get the win.

“A little bit dry. I feel a little bit dry, but this is the first month of the year. It’s a little bit cold. No matter what happens you try to do your job good.”

Poor offspeed command — he went to seven three-ball counts in 23 batters — and a Conor Gillaspie error didn’t help matters. Gillaspie’s third-inning miscue meant Quintana needed to throw 11 extra pitches to get out of the frame. Quintana had thrown 63 pitches through three innings.

That’s when he and Flowers switched plans and went with a more aggressive fastball-based approach. Following a two-out RBI double by Ryan Raburn in the fourth inning that cut the White Sox lead to 3-1, Quintana retired seven straight. He needed only eight pitches to retire the side in order in the fifth inning and set down Cleveland’s 3-4-5 hitters in the sixth.

Of the 104 pitches thrown by Quintana — who allowed an unearned run and three hits with two walks and six strikeouts in six innings — 70 were fastballs.

“Really nice job with not all his weapons,” Flowers said. “That’s a sign of a very good pitcher and he’s always been more of a command guy, but he’s been a command guy with all of his pitches. When that happens you expect six, seven out of him and a run or less. Saying that, today was even more impressive just really relying on fastball command and the occasional wrinkle in there.”

[MORE: White Sox rotation juggle could have top starters facing Tigers]

Quintana had plenty of help.

As Duke noted, the bullpen is “on a good roll.”

Jennings pitched around a two-out walk and an Alexei Ramirez two-base error to keep the lead at three runs in the seventh. Duke struck out the Indians’ 2-3-4 hitters in order in the eighth and Robertson did the same in the ninth.

The offense gave Quintana some early wiggle room with which to work.

Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera opened the game with consecutive singles off Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, who was knocked out of the contest when he was struck by a liner off the latter’s bat. Cabrera’s line drive glanced off Carrasco’s glove and struck the pitcher on the jaw sending him to the ground immediately.

Carrasco didn’t move for several minutes before he was carted off the field. The Cleveland pitcher went to a local hospital where X-rays were negative and he showed no symptoms of a concussion or head injury and was being treated for a jaw contusion.

The White Sox took advantage of the situation as Adam LaRoche had an RBI groundout to make it 1-0 and Avisail Garcia’s two-out single off Zach McAllister gave them a two-run advantage.

Flowers made it 3-0 in the fourth with a two-out RBI single, one of two hits and Abreu regained the three-run lead with a 387-foot homer off Nick Hagadone in the fifth.

“I’m happy with this outing, and tomorrow I will prepare for my next start,” Quintana said. “I feel this is a new start for us.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

hahn-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: