White Sox

Why White Sox decided now is right time to shut down Lucas Giolito's season

Why White Sox decided now is right time to shut down Lucas Giolito's season

Lucas Giolito’s next start won’t occur until spring training 2018.

The White Sox announced Tuesday plans to shut down their rookie pitcher for the season after he reached an unofficial inning limit. Promoted to the majors last month, Giolito combined to pitch 174 innings between the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte. Along with an increased output from 136 2/3 innings last season, Giolito has pitched so well the White Sox see no reason to have him make another start. 

“There’s nothing left to prove this year,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “There’s nothing really to gain. It couldn’t have gone better. I don’t think his first trip to the big leagues with us could have went any better. He’s got his blueprint. You look at all of the games, just about every one of them have been really good.”

The club also announced that James Shields has made his last start of 2017. Shields is set to have PRP shots to combat tendonitis in both knees.

Giolito hoped to face the Cleveland Indians on Friday night. He looked forward to the challenge of facing the winningest American League team and said the news is a little bittersweet, though he totally understands why.

But he’s also very pleased with a season in which he’s experienced it all. Giolito struggled at the outset and lost his lofty status as the top pitching prospect in baseball. Somewhere along the way, however, Giolito rediscovered his confidence and soared. He went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA in seven starts with the White Sox and finished the season with a combined 168 strikeouts. Giolito also recorded a seven-inning no-hitter at Triple-A Charlotte.

“This was such a crazy year,” Giolito said. “I started not the way I wanted to. I had to kind of get over some trials and tribulations down in the minor leagues trying to fix some things, trying to find myself and see who I was as a pitcher. To get the opportunity up here in late August, I knew that it’s a special opportunity so I wanted to take it and run with it and I’m glad I was able to put together some good starts for the club.

“It’s understandable that 175 they wanted to cap me off. When they first told me, it was kind of like bittersweet. I wanted to take the ball against the Indians. I want to pitch against the best.

“But at the same time, I completely understand the process of everything. I’m pleased with where I’m at.”

The White Sox are very satisfied to see how Giolito has developed in his first season after coming over from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal. They see the confidence he’s gained and Cooper is pleased to see Giolito taking advantage of his 6-foot-6 frame and confusing hitters by throwing from a higher angle. Manager Rick Renteria thinks Giolito took some critical steps in 2017 and has set himself up well to have success next season.

“He’s done a fantastic job,” Renteria said. “There’s no reason for us to continue to push him beyond where he’s at. He’s on pace hopefully for us to maybe reach the 200-inning marker next year.

“Right now, he’s in a good place.”

Shields ended his season in the most consistent place he’s been in with the White Sox in some time. The right-hander adjusted to throwing from a three-quarters angle midway through an Aug. 5 start. In nine turns since, Shields posted a 4.31 ERA and struck out 53 batters in 54 1/3 innings.

The White Sox haven't announced who will start in Giolito's place on Friday. Chris Volstad is expected to go in the season finale on Sunday instead of Shields.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

0219_alec_hansen.jpg
AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.