The first five starts of Dylan Covey’s big league career weren’t exactly a dream come true.
In three of those starts, the 25-year-old righty gave up at least six runs and at least nine hits.
Covey was tired of that.
Saturday night wasn’t a perfect outing, either. He lasted just 4.1 innings. But he was very pleased with his stuff, which resulted in a career-high nine strikeouts against the visiting San Diego Padres, just two off the total number of strikeouts he racked up in his first five starts.
“I was getting tired of getting beat with my mediocre stuff,” Covey said after Saturday’s 5-4 White Sox win. “So I went out there and gave it all I had with every pitch. I would have liked to go deeper, but the pitch count was climbing a little bit.”
Covey gave up a home run on the very first pitch he threw Saturday night, Manuel Margot taking it out for a solo shot, the second time a Padres hitter did that to a White Sox starter in as many nights.
But Covey struck out the next three hitters and six of the next seven he faced.
“Going into that game, I was thinking I’m just going to leave it all out there,” he said. “That first pitch kind of lit a fire underneath me, and I kind of started attacking guys right after that.”
Covey yielded another solo home run in the third, but he added three more strikeouts before things started getting dicey in the fifth.
“I feel confident with my stuff anyways. But you know, that’s always nice to get strikeouts and get swing and misses and stuff,” Covey said. “Definitely builds the confidence a little bit.”
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Covey ran into trouble in that fifth inning, issuing a leadoff walk, then giving up a one-out single and walking the bases loaded. He departed and was relieved by Anthony Swarzak, who got two outs with fly balls, a run credited to Covey scoring on the first of those.
It probably wasn’t anything that will go down in White Sox history, but that four-inning flash of stuff from Covey on Saturday night is exactly what the team wanted to see when it handed Covey a spot in the rotation earlier this season.
“I would venture to say the way he performed today was probably one of the reasons that everybody thought he had the capability of doing what he’s doing in terms of how he worked the last four-plus innings,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We hope it’s something that he can build on. But we’ll see. It’s one of those things where, again, it’s a work in progress and hopefully it’s something good and positive.”
Longevity has been rare for Covey so far this season. Just thrice has he gone more than five innings. Just once has he gone more than six innings. Saturday’s effort won’t change that.
But if Saturday night was anything, it was a sign that Covey has what it takes to be successful at this level. Striking out nine of the 25 major league hitters you face will do that.
“I think that my stuff plays, especially with how it was tonight,” Covey said. “Everything was a little bit sharper and crisper. Just need to learn from this and carry this over into my next outing and try to go a little bit deeper next time.”