White Sox

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Lucas Giolito knows if he had performed better in 2016 he wouldn’t have endured the season from travel hell. 

Instead, the top pitching prospect in baseball struggled with consistency in the big leagues and the Washington Nationals constantly shuffled him around. Giolito — one of three pitchers acquired in the Adam Eaton trade in December and MLB.com’s 11th-ranked prospect — was moved eight different times throughout the Nationals organization last season. 

More irritated by his inability to pitch well for a team in a pennant race, the tall right-hander understands why he spent much of last season on the go. But it’s also one of the main reasons why Giolito, who is likely to begin the 2017 season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Charlotte, is excited for a fresh start with the White Sox.

“It was frustrating because I knew if you get up there and pitch well I can stay, but I didn’t,” Giolito said. “I wanted to help the team win. That’s really all I wanted to do. And all my starts, aside from my debut, which got cut short by the rain, I did not give the team a chance to win. So rightfully so I got sent down. But yeah, it’s frustrating. 

“At the same time, with this club I know there might be a little more leeway. I know they might allow younger guys more time to settle in, at least from what I’ve seen.”

The White Sox have made no secret about their plans to rebuild. Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are four of the seven prospects acquired in December whom the White Sox hope to build around. 

General manager Rick Hahn has made it increasingly clear that player development is the team’s top priority.

“At this point going forward we’re really not going to have anyone in Chicago until they’ve answered any questions we’ve had for them at the minor league level and we feel they’re ready to succeed,” Hahn said last month at SoxFest. 

And once those players arrive, they’ll be given ample opportunities to prove whether or not they belong. The routine will be normal with regular turns in the rotation rather than spot starts here and there. 

The team’s mindset is in stark contrast with Washington, which has been in win-now mode for the past few seasons. Whenever the Nationals called upon Giolito, who hadn’t pitched above Double-A Harrisburg before last June, they needed him to fill in for a rotation that only had three pitchers make more than 25 starts.

[MORE: Lighter Avisail Garcia wants to show White Sox his best]

Giolito pitched four scoreless innings in a rain-shortened MLB debut on June 28 and then didn’t pitch again until July 7. With Stephen Strasburg back in the rotation, the Nationals then sent Giolito to Single-A Hagerstown so he could get another turn before the All-Star break. Then it was on to Triple-A Syracuse for one start and back to Washington for another. 

After he struggled in that outing, Giolito spent a month at Syracuse, returned to the bigs to struggle again on Aug. 28 against Colorado, and went back to Triple-A for one more. Finally, Giolito returned to Washington on Sept. 7 and stayed the rest of the season, though he only pitched twice in a month. In six big league games (four starts), Giolito had a 6.75 ERA. 

The up-and-down nature of Giolito’s season prompted MLB.com’s Jim Callis to write: “I also don't think the Nationals handled him very well last season, calling him to Washington on five separate occasions but never letting him take consecutive turns in the rotation, as well as having him change teams nine times.”

Giolito remembers a couple of small planes back and forth from Washington to Syracuse. He also drove a few times because it was so close. 

“All sorts of ways of moving around,” he said.

It’s also treatment that’s normally reserved for a Four-A pitcher who has options to burn rather than a top prospect trying to find stability.

Giolito — who was drafted 16th overall in the 2012 draft out of high school — thought some of his struggles were related to poor mechanics and getting away from what had made him successful. The 6-foot-6 pitcher said he tried to simplify his mechanics this winter in order to allow the ball to leave his hand more freely and easily. 

Giolito is pleased with the results so far. His main goals early in camp have been commanding his fastball low and away to right-hander hitters and learning how to throw his curveball for a called strike.

“It’s coming out very good,” Giolito said. “Much better than last year. I made a lot of positive changes.

“The time in the big leagues was definitely fun. But going up and down a lot can be like a grind. Getting on the plane, doing this, you’re pitching the next day. You have to be able to try and stay level headed and focus on the next day or task at hand. But when you’re moving around a lot it can be difficult.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Trayce Thompson - 'This is home'

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Trayce Thompson - 'This is home'

Drafted by the White Sox in 2009, Trayce Thompson never wanted to play for another team but the White Sox. 

All that changed in 2015 when he was dealt to the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier trade. Now back with the White Sox, Thompson talks with Chuck Garfien about the trials and tribulations of the last few years, the whirlwind of being on 4 teams in the last 4 weeks, how the White Sox threw him a lifeline bringing him back, how he wants to make the best of this new opportunity and more. 

Take a listen here or in the embedded player below.

Avisail Garcia heads to the DL with a strained hamstring, White Sox bring Daniel Palka up from Triple-A

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia heads to the DL with a strained hamstring, White Sox bring Daniel Palka up from Triple-A

The White Sox will be without one of their bigger bats for a while.

Avisail Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list ahead of Tuesday afternoon's game with the Seattle Mariners. The night before, Garcia pulled up while running to first base on a ground ball. He remained on the ground for a little while and needed assistance getting off the field and back to the White Sox dugout. The team called his injury a strained hamstring, and that's what forced him to the DL on Tuesday.

"It’s considered mild to moderate," manager Rick Renteria said before Tuesday's game. "So depending on how quickly he’s able to heal and the exercises they do to put him back on track, we’re hoping it’s not a long, extended DL stint. I don’t see it that way, but we’ll see where it’s at in a few days after he’s calmed it down and they’re doing what they need to do with it."

Garcia's quest to repeat his All-Star campaign from 2017 hasn't gotten off to the best start. He's slashing just .233/.250/.315, and while those numbers can of course improve over the course of the season, they look paltry compared to his 2017 slash line of .330/.380/.506, which had him statistically as one of the better hitters in the American League. Of his 17 hits on the 2018 season, just four have gone for extra bases.

To replace the injured corner outfielder on the 25-man roster, the White Sox brought up Daniel Palka from Triple-A. Palka is having a nice start to 2018, slashing .286/.384/.476 with three home runs in 17 games at Charlotte. Last season, he slashed .274/.330/.431 with 12 home runs.

"In terms of Palka, he’s a left-handed bat, obviously his first time in the big leagues. I’m sure we’ll try to integrate him as quick as we possibly can, use him both in the outfield, pinch-hitting, maybe DHing on a particular day," Renteria said. "We’ll try to take advantage of what he brings to the table. We also want to find out what he’s going to be able to do here. He had a nice showing in the spring. Obviously comes with a lot of power, maybe we can take advantage of that a little bit."

The White Sox outfield looks significantly different now than it did just a week ago. The team acquired Trayce Thompson in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, and he's already homered in his return to the South Side. Now with Garcia on the shelf for a while, expect to see more of both Thompson and Palka.

"I think any opportunity, everything is opportunity in the game," Palka said. "You're ready to go at Day 1, so that's the plan.

"Come out Day 1 in whatever role there is, whatever role needs to be filled, just be consistent in that role."