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Why teaching phase of White Sox rebuild has Don Cooper excited

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Don Cooper has been waiting for this portion of the season to begin after watching the dismantling of the pitching staff piece by piece.

As difficult as the departures of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and many others has been, the White Sox pitching coach agreed with the organization’s decision to head in this new direction all along. This spring, Cooper said he was excited for the learning environment the team had begun to create for its young prospects and the future they brought with them.

Now that many of the franchise’s young pitchers have graduated to the majors, Cooper is enthralled to have reached the teaching phase. He’s found working with Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer and Tuesday’s starter Reynaldo Lopez to be rejuvenating after a trying process in which eight pitchers were traded since December, including seven since mid-July.

“The rebuild is underway,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t underway prior to them getting here. It was still the gutting of the team that was happening. And it’s been fun seeing where they’re at and what we might do to improve and how we improve in those areas.”

Giolito doesn’t mind it, either.

He’s comfortable knowing he’ll be with the White Sox for some time in this final stage of development. Rick Hahn said last December the team intended to first let Giolito work things out at Triple-A Charlotte before he would be promoted. They wouldn’t start Giolito in the majors and send him back for more development if he struggled.

Last season, Giolito bounced around the Washington Nationals organization. The Nationals were in a pennant race and needed the rookie to contribute and he struggled. Giolito liked the motivation offered by the challenge, but also appreciates the comfort he has with the White Sox. He and Cooper like working together to determine how Giolito can improve.

This week they’ve focused again on getting ahead in the count early after Giolito walked four batters in Friday’s loss. Giolito wasn’t pleased with the strike zone (Pitch Tracker made it appear that at least 10 low strikes were called balls) and was ejected. But on Monday, Giolito said he thought he was erratic on the edges and at the top of the zone, which can result in missed strike calls. If he faces that situation again, Giolito plans to attack hitters more often with his fastball.

“The learning experience to take from that is when you’re getting squeezed a little bit you just have to pound the zone to the best of your ability,” Giolito said. “Challenge hitters. Take those opportunities to challenge yourself -- I’m going to throw my fastball in there and see what happens.

“Just to have that comfort of I’m going to go out there and give my 100 percent and whatever happens happens. But I know that I’ll be able to continue to work on things at this level and I’ll get another opportunity.”

As Cooper noted, no bad game or even a rough stretch is going to cost Giolito or Lopez or Fulmer. They’re all a big part of the franchise’s plans and the White Sox will exhaust every effort with each.

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It’s the teaching phase and Cooper is relishing it.

“All of the kids that are coming up, there’s nothing they can do negatively that’s going to get us off of them and stop what we’re trying to do and stop where we’re trying to head because they’re part of the future,” Cooper said.

“It’s refreshing.”