White Sox

Lillibridge eager for starting role

654468.png

Lillibridge eager for starting role

As it stands, Brent Lillibridge isn't in line for a full-time starting role in 2012. The only way that'll happen is if someone gets hurt, or someone has significant struggles coming out of the gate.

Fortunately for Lillibridge, if that someone plays any position but pitcher or catcher, he's ready to jump in. After all, there's a reason why he has to carry around more mitts than anyone during spring training.

"I'll bring the three gloves around -- I don't think I'll need the first base one too much, hopefully Paulie will be healthy this year -- but I just gotta keep working at it," Lillibridge said. "It's a lot more work carrying a bunch of gloves around, but I have to be ready for anything."

Such is the life a super-utilityman. Lillibridge mostly served as a reserve outfielder last season, making a pair of spectacular plays in New York and robbing a would-be go-ahead homer from Coco Crisp during the summer. He's a natural middle infielder, though he didn't play shortstop at all and only saw 19 innings at second base in 2011. In fact, the infield position Lillibridge saw the most time at was first base, as he logged 129 innings there after Paul Konerko was hit in the knee by an Andrew Miller fastball in late July.

"I would assume, given the numbers, I'd get a lot more infield work now that Omar Vizquel's not with us," Lillibridge said. "It's kind of hard to back up him when he's one of the best infielders of all time."

With more opportunities for playing time opening up, Lillibridge should have a greater opportunity to repeat his 2011 season. In 216 trips to the plate, Lillibridge smacked 13 home runs -- a career high for any professional level. While he still struck quite a bit, his .340 on-base percentage mitigated those concerns. And 18 of his 48 hits went for extra-bases.

A long offseason -- made even longer by Lillibridge suffering a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch Sept. 8 -- has its psychological pitfalls, though, following a breakout performance.

"More of it's the mental side of it, understanding the approach and stuff," said Lillibridge. "You don't try to do exactly the same thing, because when you don't change a thing, you end up doing stupid stuff."

If Lillibridge can sustain his success of 2011, he very well may play himself into a starting role, either in center field or at second base if Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham start slowly.

Even if those players don't falter, though, Lillibridge wants to make it a difficult decision for Robin Ventura to leave him on the bench.

"You always want to move up. I want a chance to start and some point. The team, it is what it is, we have a great team," Lillibridge said. "But I'm going to make it hard. I'm not going to settle for a role just being a bench guy, I'm hoping to get an opportunity.

"I'm always looking for more at-bats, more innings -- I'm not greedy, my goal is to get better and get a chance to be a starter at some point in my career."

MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

Eloy Jimenez is wasting no time endearing himself to the South Side. His game-winning, broken bat homer against the team that traded him away, in his first time back, is the stuff of legend. The Quintana-Eloy trade still probably has 10-15 years of barguments ahead of it, but it's quickly becoming one of the more fascinating storylines in recent memory. 

There's apparently baseball going on outside of Chicago, though, and as it turns out, the teams that were still really good last week are still really good this week. The Astros and Yankees are actually probably getting better. The Orioles are not. 

To the rankings! 

YOU CAN SEE THE ENTIRE MLB POWER RANKINGS RIGHT HERE

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Looking for another example of how far Lucas Giolito has come this season? Look back to last year’s Crosstown series.

Giolito pitched in games on both sides of town, but the start he made against the Cubs at Wrigley Field was emblematic of his woeful 2018 season. He actually earned the win in that game, but he walked seven batters and threw three wild pitches. By the time he exited, his season ERA was nearly 7.00.

White Sox fans know that 2019 has been the complete opposite for Giolito, and he rides into his Wednesday-night start on the North Side as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Just like Eloy Jimenez’s game-winning home run Tuesday was the best snapshot of the White Sox rebuilding progress to date, putting last year’s start at Wrigley next to where Giolito is heading into this year’s start at Wrigley is the best snapshot of his amazing transformation.

“It was survival mode,” Giolito said Tuesday. “Now I feel like I’m on the attack. When I take the ball, I have full confidence in myself that I will come after you with really good stuff, changes in velocity and movement. Last year I went out not knowing what I had that day.

“I don’t want to walk seven, like I did last year here. I got the win somehow. The offense and defense bailed me out a ton. This year I’m much different. I’m all about filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s pretty much the M.O.”

The difference has been obvious to anyone who watched Giolito struggle last season to the tune of a 6.13 ERA (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), a 1.48 WHIP (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), 118 earned runs (the most in baseball) and 90 walks (the most in the American League). This season, he’s been dominant, on an incredible run that’s made him as good a Cy Young candidate as you’ll find. He’s got a 2.22 ERA right now, best in the AL, with 95 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Over his last eight starts, Giolito has a 0.94 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Opposing hitters are batting just .149 against him during that span.

The dude’s on fire, a near lock to be an All Star, and perhaps most importantly, he’s totally changed his long-term perception in the minds of White Sox fans. They groaned during the walks and the runs and the wild pitches last year and cast him out of their projected future rotations. Now they’re cheering a guy who looks capable of leading that rotation of the future.

What a difference a year makes.

If those White Sox fans are anything in number and volume like they were Tuesday night, when they made Wrigley Field sound like Guaranteed Rate Field after Jimenez’s homer in the ninth, then Giolito can expect a rocking atmosphere as he looks to keep the good times rolling — and make a Crosstown moment worth remembering this time.

“I want to give the fans a show as much as I can,” Giolito said. “I like to see we’re filling up our ballpark with more White Sox fans, more people starting to pay attention. Just want to continue on that train. Our team is playing really hard and we’re happy to be here.

“My goal every time I pitch is to win, so not too much changes. But it's going to be a lot of fun, I'll say that. I'm looking forward to it.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.