Frank Thomas

With a little help from Frank Thomas, the new and improved Lucas Giolito might be here to stay

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USA TODAY

With a little help from Frank Thomas, the new and improved Lucas Giolito might be here to stay

Lucas Giolito is sick of losing, which for the White Sox pitcher who took a notorious amount of lumps last season is actually an understatement.

“I’m really sick of losing,” Giolito said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “I went into the offseason personally like, ‘I don’t want to be a loser anymore. It’s time to figure it out and find ways to win.’”

In 2018, no pitcher in the majors received a harsher beating on the mound than Giolito. He gave up more runs (118) and walked more batters (90) than anyone in the American League. His 6.13 ERA and 1.48 WHIP were both the highest in the majors among qualified pitchers. The player once considered “the top pitching prospect in baseball” was on the road to becoming one of the game’s biggest busts unless he made some changes.

How much did he want to fix himself?

“Pretty much more than anything,” Giolito said. “I went into the offseason with this new hunger. I never want to feel like that on a baseball field again.”

Like the time he gave up nine runs on five hits and seven walks in just two innings last April against the Houston Astros.

“Those ones that blew up in my face in the first or second inning, it’s like, ‘What’s going on? Why am I allowing this to happen when I’ve been throwing a baseball for most of my life?'”

Pitching is all about control. But Giolito had almost no control when the ball came out of his hand.

“Bringing the walks down, that was the No. 1 thing. I walked a ridiculous amount of batters last year. To the point where it was like, ‘What are you doing, man?’”

So as fall turned to winter, Giolito went home to Southern California, looked in the mirror and bore down like he never had before.

“It wasn’t one of those offseasons where It’s like, 'I’m going to work really hard in the gym and continue to do what I’ve been doing to prepare myself,' because it wasn’t working. It hasn’t worked for a couple years now,” Giolito explained. “I had to go in with a new mindset, to figure things out, to really, really reconstruct some things. I worked really hard at it and now I’m starting to see a little bit of the results here early, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

Among the many changes that Giolito made, he shortened his delivery, key for a pitcher who stands 6-foot-6 and has arms like telephone poles. The cleaner delivery has added velocity and life to his fastball and also allows him to be more consistent with his pitches.

“The biggest thing is the consistency to get to my release point, being in the right firing position and be able to get over the ball more and more instead of flying open and having big misses.”

He also needed to cut down on stolen bases. Oh, did he. Teams were swiping bags at will against him.

“Every time a guy would get on first, he was pretty much standing on second,” Giolito admitted. “I was slow to the plate, I wasn’t varying my times, I wasn’t varying my looks. I would get into that snowball. You could call it a rhythm, but it was an anti-rhythm. Everyone on the bases was a carousel.”

He and pitching coach Don Cooper worked together in spring training, adding a slide step to Giolito’s delivery to get him quicker to the plate. After giving up 26 stolen bases last season, Giolito has allowed only one so far in 38 innings in 2019.

While White Sox coaches have certainly played a role in helping Giolito turn his career around, he also received some unexpected help from a certain Hall of Famer by the name of Frank Thomas.

The two of them were on the stage at an event for White Sox Charities in April when the South Side legend gave Giolito some surprising, yet necessary advice.

“I was standing right in front of Frank. He was behind me. He leans in and said, ‘You need to pitch inside more.’ I’m like, ‘I know, I know.’ He’s like, ‘For real. You need to pitch inside more,’” Giolito recalled.

One of the most feared hitters in baseball during his iconic career, The Big Hurt happens to have a big heart when it comes to helping current players with their craft. Thomas knows how throwing inside can make for an uncomfortable at-bat, even for a player like him.

Giolito got the message.

“My next start, I go to (James) McCann, and I’m like, ‘James, we need to pitch inside more. Let’s go. Righties, lefties, we got to get in there. You get a piece of advice from someone like Frank Thomas, that’s not something you let go through one ear and out the other. I took that to heart,” Giolito said.

In his last two starts, Giolito’s inside approach was on display against two of the top hitters he faced. First, in Cleveland, after giving up a single to Francisco Lindor in his first at-bat, Giolito delivered some chin music high and tight in Lindor’s next at-bat. The Indians All Star ended up striking out. Then in Toronto against Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the 20-year-old phenom made hard contact in his first two appearances against Giolito with a double and a deep flyout to center. The next time Guerrero came to the plate, Giolito set him up by throwing inside. He eventually struck him out swinging.

“I’ve always viewed pitching inside as very important, especially for a starting pitcher who throws a lot of fastballs, but to have that reiterated by a legend, by someone who played here, made a lot of memories for a lot of people, knows the game a lot better than I do at this point, I think the message rang true,” Giolito said about Thomas.

Now, opponents around the league are getting the memo about Giolito, who has been a totally different pitcher in the first six weeks of the season.


Seeing Giolito struggle like he did in 2018 was painful to watch, but looking back, it could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him in his career.

“I learned from every single thing. Every single good thing I did. If I was able to bear down and make adjustments in the middle of an inning, which didn’t happen very often last year, I learned from those situations when I did something that worked out,” he said. “But I learned a lot from the failures, and there were a lot of failures. Every single one made me hungrier and hungrier to figure it out and make me better.”

This year, Giolito is better. Much better. And that queasy feeling he’s had about losing is starting to subside. There’s still a lot of baseball remaining here in 2019, but after watching what the lanky right-hander has done so far, White Sox fans should hope for this: that the new and improved Lucas Giolito is here to stay.

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Hall of Famer Frank Thomas to join NBC Sports Chicago's White Sox Coverage Team

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USA TODAY

Hall of Famer Frank Thomas to join NBC Sports Chicago's White Sox Coverage Team

Chicago, IL (March 25, 2019) – NBC Sports Chicago - THE Home of the #AuthenticFan - has announced Chicago White Sox legend/1st Ballot Baseball Hall of Famer FRANK THOMAS (@TheBigHurt_35) will be joining the network as a game day studio analyst on “White Sox Pregame Live presented by Aurelio’s Pizza” & “Subaru White Sox Postgame Live” beginning this MLB season.  In addition, “The Big Hurt” will also make occasional appearances on the network’s popular weeknight 7:00 PM CT game start lead-in program, “Baseball Night in Chicago.” The announcement was made by Kevin Cross, Senior Vice President/General Manager, NBC Sports Chicago.

Thomas’ first appearance as the network’s new White Sox studio analyst will take place on Opening Day (Thursday, March 28), as the White Sox travel to face the American League Central Division rival Kansas City Royals (NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Opening Day coverage begins with a special, hour-long expanded edition of “White Sox Pregame Live” at 2:00 PM CT; live stream to authenticated subscribers available at NBCSportsChicago.com and via the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app).  Last week, NBC Sports Chicago announced 2005 White Sox World Series championship “Manager of the Year” Ozzie Guillen will also be joining the network’s “White Sox Pre/Postgame Live” team as an analyst beginning this season.

“I’m happy to be joining the team at NBC Sports Chicago and to be back covering the White Sox, a franchise with a bright future featuring some of the best young talent in the game today,” said Thomas.  

“Frank Thomas is, without question, one of the greatest players in Chicago baseball history and we couldn’t be more thrilled he will be lending his insightful analysis as part of our expert White Sox coverage team all season long,” added Cross.  “The addition of Frank once again showcases our year-round commitment in delivering the most comprehensive coverage of the White Sox to our vast and dedicated multi-platform audience.”

One of the greatest hitters in the history of the game, Thomas was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (2014).  His #35 jersey was also retired by the White Sox 2010.  Thomas finished his stellar MLB career with a .301 batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI, 495 doubles, 1,494 runs scored and 1,667 walks in 2,322 games.  He was also a member of the White Sox 2005 World Championship team, his final season with the club.  Thomas won back-to-back American League MVP honors in 1993 & 1994 and finished second in MVP balloting in 2000.  A five-time AL All-Star, Thomas is the White Sox franchise leader in numerous offensive categories, including home runs (448), doubles (447), RBI (1,465), runs scored (1,327), extra-base hits (906), walks (1,466), slugging percentage (.568) and on-base percentage (.427).  Thomas is also just one of four players in baseball history (joining Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams) to have a .300 average with 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks in a career.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.