White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito stood with former teammate Dane Dunning in left field until Rangers batting practice wrapped ahead of the series opener.
They talked about their families, the season, video games. Call of Duty and Rocket League had brought them together in the first place, after they both landed in Chicago, traded from the Nationals.
“Seeing all the guys now just brings back old memories,” Dunning said in a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago this weekend, “and being able to talk with them, it felt like I was with them not too long ago.”
It’s been nine months since the White Sox traded Dunning to the Rangers, along with minor leaguer Avery Weems, for ace Lance Lynn. Dunning is one of the young talents, along with Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer, that the White Sox have given up in the past year to make a win-now push.
Now, with two weeks left in the regular season, they hold an 11-game lead in the AL Central. Lynn took the mound against his former team Saturday at Globe Life Field, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings as the White Sox fell to the Rangers, 2-1.
“It's well deserved,” Dunning said of the White Sox’ regular-season success. “Every single one of them is talented, their offense is extremely talented. Playing my own season, I haven't really been able to watch, watch them – just see highlights here and there. But I'm really happy for all of them. I really am.
“But, I'm happy where I'm at as well.”
The Rangers (55-93) dwell at the bottom of the AL West standings. But with Texas, Dunning carved out a role in the rotation, sporting the best ERA (4.28) of any of the Ranger’s starters now that Kyle Gibson is with Philadelphia post-trade deadline.
Dunning is not scheduled to start against his former team this series. He’s been building up his pitch count out of the bullpen since a recent stint in the COVID-19 IL, but he’s penciled in for a few more starts this season.
Just a little over a year ago, Dunning was making his August MLB debut with the White Sox, quickly followed by his postseason debut. He started Game 3 of the Wild Card series against the A’s, which the White Sox lost 6-4 after using nine pitchers.
“Postseason is no joke,” said Dunning, who allowed two hits in a scoreless 2/3 of an inning. “I mean, I only got 15 pitches in the postseason. I didn't really have a long start; it was kind of all-hands-on-deck, with a short leash.
“But just having the experience and learning from a lot of them over there, veterans. Giolito has been through it all. (Dallas) Keuchel has been around, he's won a World Series. They're really good to pick their brains.”
The difference is, Dunning has been applying lessons in staying calm and present on the mound to his regular season development, whereas the White Sox hope they can leverage last year’s experience to help them this October.
"You could tell in Oakland, when we were in those games, the weight of them was a lot more,” White Sox southpaw Carlos Rodón said this week. “There was a lot more relying on those games. It was good to get the feeling."
This time around, they’ll also have another veteran pitcher in Lynn. The right-hander would be among MLB’s top 5 ERA leaders this season if he’d pitched enough to qualify. In his first All-Star year since 2012, Lynn has a 2.47 ERA.
“We’re in a good spot heading into the next one,” Lynn said after throwing building up to 83 pitches Saturday, in his second game back from the IL. “Hopefully we clinch here soon. And we’ll be ready to rock for the playoffs.”