White Sox

White Sox pitcher Derek Holland isn't shy in new surroundings

White Sox pitcher Derek Holland isn't shy in new surroundings

He may still be adapting to his new environment, but Derek Holland has already felt comfortable enough to be himself.

The newest White Sox starting pitcher spent part of Thursday afternoon on the phone with season-ticket holders to thank them for their patronage. More than a few were treated to the left-hander's impersonation of former White Sox and Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray. Though Holland, who is in town for SoxFest this weekend, had never called fans during his 10 professional seasons with the Texas Rangers, he felt as if his boisterous impression of the legendary play-by-play man would go over well. Even if it didn't, Holland wanted to have fun.

"This is new," Holland said. "Coming from Texas we never called any of the fans. It's cool, it's something all organizations should do. These are the people who make you what you are. It's not taking too much time to sit and say thank you and to interact with these fans. That's what it's all about. I'm lucky to be in this situation and very happy for it.

"That's just me. It's my personality. That's the way I am. I am going to try and bring as much life as I can to the clubhouse. I like to have fun, but when it's time to work, it's time to work."

A draft-and-follow pick in 2006, Holland, 30, had been with Texas since the franchise signed him in May 2007. While injuries limited him to 38 appearances (35 starts) the past three seasons, Holland has an entire career's worth of great memories with the Rangers. Included in that bunch is four division titles and three postseason victories, including a gem in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series, the only Fall Classic contest Holland has ever started. 

In other words, switching teams hasn't been that easy. But Holland expects to feel a little bit more like a member of the White Sox when he puts on a jersey for the first time on Friday.

"To jump to another team it takes a little bit," Holland said. "One of the things I've been asked from my parents is ‘Has it hit you yet that you're not a Ranger any more?' Now that I'm here and once I put on the jersey tomorrow to wear, then it's really going to settle in and realize this is it, it's a new beginning and new chapter and we're going to make the best of it."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Part of Holland's effort is likely to include a few more impersonations of Caray. The Newark, Ohio-native has done the voice for years. He improved it when ex-Cub Ryan Dempster was a teammate. 

As Holland sees it, it's just another way to relax in his new home.

"You just have to have fun," Holland said. "That's the thing I've learned playing this game, you have to live in the moment and enjoy yourself. Live in the moment and have fun with it because once it's gone it's gone. I want to be who I am, not be somebody I'm not. Just because I have a personality I shouldn't be anything different from what I am on the field. I work hard, I play hard, but at the end of the day I'm going to have a personality, too."

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.”

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