White Sox

White Sox hope offense can reduce bullpen's workload

White Sox hope offense can reduce bullpen's workload

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Robin Ventura would really love it if his relievers’ arms don’t fall off because the team relies on its bullpen so much.

If they continue at their current pace, some White Sox relievers would likely require a new appendage before the season ends. Common sense says it’s easier to win ballgames if pitchers have all their parts working.

With that in mind, the White Sox desire more production from their offense. They’ve managed to produce big hits at the right time and done enough to help the club to its best start since 1982. But the White Sox also believe their offense — which has averaged 3.8 runs through nine games and hasn’t been shut out — has more in the tank and they’d like to tap into that as soon as possible.

“You always take (blowouts),” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t think there’s ever a day where you don’t want those. We’re learning now how to win close games, and that’s nice. But you’re not going to be able to run the bullpen out there necessarily the way we’ve been doing it every night. You’ll end up wearing them out.”

Matt Albers, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson already have combined for 23 appearances through the team’s first nine games. At this rate, Duke is on pace to appear in 126 games.

It’s not as if it’s bad thing the White Sox have had to rely on their bullpen so much. They already have played three one-run games, another two-run contest and two more decided by three. The team’s record in those games is 5-1.

But they’d love if they could get a little more breathing room and reduce the bullpen’s workload. Though you never can tell based on spring training how an offense will perform, the White Sox felt confident they’d improve. They scored 5.75 runs per game in Arizona, up more than a run from last season.

“We can be better,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “No doubt about it. We can be better, and we can produce more. Our offense has been good but not as good as we expect we can be. But we put in effort every day trying to do other things and sooner rather than later we’re going to show what we’re able to do from the offensive side.”

Abreu has been impressed with the team’s pitching staff as a whole. The team brought an American League-best 2.25 ERA into Friday’s contest. Abreu said it’s a comfort to know how good the staff is, that they can keep the White Sox in the majority of games.

Ventura also is comfortable because he believes the team is capable of much more. The White Sox have done enough to win seven of their first nine. But Adam Eaton is the only player who has had any kind of hot streak early in the season.

“They’ve been coming up with the runs when you need them,” Ventura said. “When you look at them, Adam seems to be getting on base. He’d be the one guy.

“But as far as scoring a ton of runs, we’re not doing that. But we’re able to get the hit, get the guy on when we need to get him on, get him over, get him in.

“Would you like (a blowout)? Yeah. We’ll take one any time we can get one.”

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


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: