CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Though many of his Charlotte teammates are in the majors and his own prospects for a promotion are promising, Lucas Giolito doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
The Triple-A Charlotte pitcher is absolutely thrilled for teammates Yoan Moncada, Aaron Bummer, Nicky Delmonico and Reynaldo Lopez. He hopes to be there in Chicago to join them soon, too. But given all the effort he’s put in to reach this place, a spot in which he’s produced the consistency he desires, Giolito wants to keep his focus.
His overall numbers aren’t what he’d like, but Giolito -- who is 5-10 with a 4.70 ERA in 23 starts -- feels comfortable with what he has accomplished in 2017. The right-hander’s curveball is sharp, he’s throwing his offspeed pitches in all types of situations and pitching deeper into games.
“It’s super exciting,” Giolito said of teammates’ promotions. “At the same time, the position I’m in, the stuff I’m trying to work on, I can’t be worried about when am I getting the call. …
“You don’t want to put the GM hat on. I’m here to play. I’m here to go out there every fifth day and win for my team. I’m here in Charlotte and that’s what I’m here to do and I’m going to keep working on that.”
Those fifth days have been much better of late. Giolito pitched fewer than five innings in six of his first 16 starts this season. He had allowed 85 hits in 83 1/3 innings and posted a 5.40 ERA. Opposing hitters produced an .835 OPS against Giolito.
But a curveball he’d been working to command since spring training and throw for called strikes has started to come around. Giolito said the improvement has come from a combination of better mechanics and commitment to throwing and trusting the pitch. He also trusts that the work he puts in with pitching coach Steve McCatty between starts has him in the right place to succeed, which has allowed him to not overthink things.
“There were some games I really just wouldn’t have it, I’d be throwing it in the dirt, it wasn’t a competitive pitch,” Giolito said. “Now I go out there with confidence every outing that I can throw it over for a strike.”
“Early in the season there were a lot of starts where I was thinking about too many things at the same time of trying to get guys out and pitch deep into games. It’s too much. Now I go out there and I’m not worried about the stuff that I’m working on in the four days in between starts.”
Giolito has also continued to throw the slider/cutter that he learned this spring with more success. Between that, his curve and changeup, Giolito said he’s worked to throw all of his pitches in different counts so he can do the same with comfort in the majors.
But spotting the curveball for strikes consistently is a big key. In his last outing, Giolito said he threw roughly 20 curves with confidence.
“He’s just simplified his delivery, simplified his thought process and he’s been able to kind of execute the plan that he has,” White Sox player development director Chris Getz said. “That is commanding his fastball and curveball for strikes. He’s had an effective slider and his changeup has been pretty good. The stuff is good. The delivery can be very good. That’s what’s he has been able to do, just kind of putting it all together
“The combination of all those things will give him a good chance to be effective up here at this level.”
One American League scout said of Giolito that “all the tools are there,” it’s just a matter of consistency. Over his last seven starts, Giolito has pitched into the seventh inning four times and gone at least five innings all but once. He has a 3.20 ERA in that span with 40 strikeouts, 30 hits and 19 walks in 39 1/3 innings.
The performance would appear to have Giolito in line for a September promotion at the least.
He’d love for nothing more than to be back in the same rotation as Lopez, who made his White Sox debut on Friday. But he’s there, Giolito said he intends to stay focused on here where the everyday attention to detail has helped him improve.
“I’m definitely watching a ton of the games and keeping my eye on stat lines like Lopey’s debut,” Giolito said. “I was all over trying to watch as much as I could. I’m super happy for him. At the same time, I look forward to getting that opportunity to go up there and be with those guys.
“While that’s there, there’s still a lot of work to be done here. And I know that as far as all the stuff I’m trying to put together, it’s not perfect, it never will be perfect. But I’m doing everything I can to build up that consistency.”