James Shields

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.

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Ever since James Shields dropped down his arm angle, the strikeouts have increased considerably.

The White Sox pitcher struck out eight more batters in Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Shields, who pitched seven innings to earn a victory, has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning since he began to throw from a three-quarters angle in the middle of an Aug. 5 loss at Boston. While Shields still hasn’t perfected the new look -- he’s not even sure he’ll bring it back in 2018 -- it has caught the attention of opposing hitters.

“That was definitely a different Shields,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. “He was moving the ball around tonight.”  

Shields might consider sticking with the lowered angle. The veteran often insists the adjustment is a work in a progress, though his results have continued to improve (he’s got a 3.51 ERA in his past four starts).

Overall, since Shields made the switch he has a 4.33 ERA in 60 1/3 innings, nearly two points below the 6.19 ERA he produced in his first 56 2/3 frames. Shields has also seen a reduction in home runs allowed per nine innings from 2.38 to 1.79.

But the most drastic change has been in strikeouts. Shields has increased his strikeout-rate to 23.5 percent, up from 16.6 percent. He’s whiffed 59 batters since making the adjustment after only 44 prior.

“He already curls, he closes off,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's got a cross-angle delivery, so you see his back a lot. But I think the variance in velocities, the breaking ball, he'll run the fastball, sink it. He's doing a lot with it, there's a lot of action going on so it's going to both sides of the plate. But the variance of velocity, especially with the breaking ball, sometimes it pops up there as an eephus or something. He's doing a real nice job.”

Shields has one season left on his current deal and seems likely to return to anchor a young White Sox rotation in 2018. Whether or not he’ll stay with the current setup remains to be seen.

“We’ll see,” Shields said “I’ll make some assessments in the offseason, and see how that works out, see how my body is feeling. Over the last month and a half, it seems to be working out. we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m revamping every year man. This being my 12th season, you’re always trying to refine your game every year, no matter what, whether it’s a pitch or mechanical adjustment. The league makes adjustments on you. I’ve faced a lot of these hitters so many times. I think Robbie Cano I’ve had almost 100 at-bats in my career against. But at the end of the day, you always have to make adjustments.”

James Shields shows no effects of Tuesday's comebacker off knee in win over Giants

James Shields shows no effects of Tuesday's comebacker off knee in win over Giants

Five days after a comebacker hit him flush on the side of his knee, James Shields was dealing on Saturday night.

The White Sox pitcher didn’t show any effects from Tuesday’s outing as he delivered his strongest performance of the season. Shields limited the San Francisco Giants to a run and two hits in seven innings in a 13-1 White Sox victory. The right-hander said it’s another step in the right direction as he continues to pitch from the lowered arm angle he switched to during a start last month.

“I’ve been having some good quality starts in the last six or seven outings or so. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re moving forward, and I’m getting the results that I want. I think the games like today are going to start coming along a little bit more. We’re going to keep working at it.

It was in the middle of an Aug. 5 start at Boston that Shields opted to drop down. He’s worked on the lowered angle for a decade and finally tried it out during a loss. It has resulted in more consistent performances for a pitcher who boasted a 6.19 ERA through July.

In seven starts, Shields has a 4.32 ERA in 41 2/3 innings. He’s allowed 33 hits, walked 16 and struck out 39 in that span. Even as he lay on the ground writhing in pain on Tuesday, Shields said had no doubts he’d make Saturday’s start.

“My adrenaline kind of took over,” Shields said. “My fastball location was pretty much on point. I got behind the count on a few hitters, but overall didn’t really leave anything over the plate besides the home run. I got a ton of ground balls today. That’s what I wanted to do. Again, those guys did a great job of getting me some runs early and making me feel a little more comfortable out there.”

The White Sox were pleased with the effort. Shields threw strikes on 69 of 106 pitches and worked deep into the game.

“James’ outing was fantastic,” Renteria said. “He was extremely efficient. Did everything he could. A lot of ground balls, a lot of strikes. Just for himself again, kind of reinventing himself with his new delivery and attacking the strike zone and it’s been working very well for him.”