White Sox

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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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy is coming? No. Eloy is here!

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy is coming? No. Eloy is here!

Eloy Jimenez has arrived.

His rookie season has become special with big games and big moments, the latest being his two-homer, six RBI game against the Yankees. Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the magic of Eloy (1:30). Chuck interviews Jimenez after the game (6:20), Lucas Giolito is the first 10-game winner in baseball. Let that sink in (8:00). Die-hard White Sox fan Frank Kaminsky rips Cubs fans (13:00) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito star again: Are the faces of the franchise emerging?

Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito star again: Are the faces of the franchise emerging?

Maybe the future hasn't quite yet arrived at a South Side stadium near you. But it’s getting some heavy play in the coming attractions.

The first two games of this four-game weekend series against the New York Yankees have provided the clearest glimpse yet of the White Sox incredibly bright future. After Tim Anderson blasted a three-run homer in a comeback win Thursday night, Eloy Jimenez led the charge with two three-run homers in a 10-2 blowout Friday night. Lucas Giolito starred again with six innings of one-run ball to become the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins. The guy who was, statistically, the worst pitcher in baseball last season has a 0.94 ERA over his last nine starts, with just six runs allowed in his last eight.

With their second win over the first-place Yankees in as many nights, the White Sox got back to .500, the first time they’ve been there this late in the season since the start of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project.

“We've been climbing. We've been playing better baseball, more consistent baseball. We're playing really well at home, which is huge,” Giolito said. “I'm happy. I'm happy we're at .500. It's kind of like a turning point and we just keep going from there.”

The turning point would figure to be more gradual, not a handbrake-puller following that beatdown these White Sox received in Minnesota over Memorial Day Weekend. But there’s no doubt that the future gets brighter almost every day. Certainly with every Giolito start and every Jimenez home run, things look better and better for 2020, when the franchise’s contention window could start to open.

Guaranteed Rate Field was rocking Friday night — literally, with Rock N Roll Night in full swing — with 31,000-plus in the stands and more fans expected over the series’ final two days. Then comes next week’s two-game trip north on Lake Shore Drive for the first half of this year’s Crosstown series.

Giolito dealing, Jimenez launching homers, electric atmospheres and a White Sox team on a hot streak: Are we sure we didn’t all tumble backward into a time machine a la Philip J. Fry?

No, it’s still 2019. And though Jimenez spoke Friday about these White Sox chasing a playoff spot in a top-heavy American League, it might take Dylan Cease and Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal arriving before talk of the postseason really gets serious. That shouldn’t prevent the excitement over what White Sox fans are seeing on the field right now, however.

Any winning stretch would be welcome after the White Sox lost a combined 195 games in 2017 and 2018. But this one feels special because of who’s powering it: young players who are part of this team’s core, players who will be fueling the planned championship contenders in years to come.

“I think we can be one of the best teams in the league,” Giolito said. “We 100 percent have the talent. We have more talent on the way developing in the minor leagues. The sky’s the limit for us.

“If we continue to play the way we’re playing — starting pitching getting more consistent, that’s a big thing that I’ve been saying is a huge part of our success — then we can continue to win games and put ourselves in a good spot at the end of the year.”

Jimenez and Giolito taking star turns could provide more than just two pieces of a core. As their stars continue to rise, maybe we’re looking at faces of the franchise in the making.

Certainly Giolito has captured national attention and single-handedly shone a spotlight on the South Side with his continued success. He was voted the AL Pitcher of the Month in May and has been even better in June, with a 0.43 ERA and 26 strikeouts in his three starts this month.

After owning the highest ERA and WHIP among the sport’s qualified starting pitchers last season, Giolito is in the running to start the All-Star Game for the American League. There’s a lot of season left, but as of right now, he’s as good a candidate for the Cy Young Award as you’ll find.

It’s been a remarkable transformation from a guy many fans jettisoned from their future rotation projections after last season to a guy who fans might have at the top of those projections.

“In terms of performances, they speak for themselves,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You've got to give that kid a ton of credit for everything he's done to make adjustments to put him in the position he's in at this particular moment and they way he's performing.

“We're all amazed. I think everybody in baseball should be amazed at what this young man is doing and everybody should be extremely proud of him.”

And then there’s the slugger.

For the bulk of the season to this point, Jimenez looked like a 22-year-old rookie getting his first taste of the big leagues. And a campaign full of growing pains would have been perfectly understandable. But lately we’ve seen why this kid was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, why he’s been receiving so much hype since the day the White Sox acquired him two summers ago.

In his last 13 games, Jimenez is slashing .348/.412/.761 with five homers and 14 RBIs. That’s the type of middle-of-the-order superstar folks dreamed about when they talked about Jimenez prior to his major league debut. Jimenez’s mere presence was the main positive. Now, he’s starting to show what kind of impact bat he can swing at the major league level. And that cranks the brightness to 11 for 2020 and beyond.

“Yes, of course,” Jimenez said after Friday’s game, almost incredulous that he was asked if he’s been feeling better at the plate lately. “I feel more patient at the plate. I’m seeing the ball better because I don’t rush anything. I just go into the game and if it happens, it happens.”

“Man, he's a beast,” Giolito said of his left fielder. “He's coming into his own a little bit. They've been pitching him like a 10-year vet ever since he got into the league but I think he's starting to dial in on his approach and he's showing the power a little bit.”

It’s all part of what’s going extremely right for the White Sox right now, positive signs coming from the right players that bode so well for the future.

There’s still a way to go until that future arrives. But don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot more No. 27 and No. 74 jerseys and shirseys on the South Side as the summer moves along. These might be faces of the franchise in the making.

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