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What Lynn has meant to Sox during All-Star season

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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It wouldn't be an All-Star Game without a Big Bastard.

Lance Lynn has been that good for the Chicago White Sox this season -- meant so much to them -- that the Midsummer Classic would feel incomplete without his inclusion.

"He's just a guy you're going to give the ball to, and he's just going to be out there, he's not going to want to come out of the game," White Sox reliever Codi Heuer told NBC Sports Chicago last week. "Every time Lance is on the mound, I'm like, 'Oh, it's Lance Day. If I'm coming into the game today, I'm shutting it down for my boy.' Because he's going out there and leaving it out on the field. That's contagious."

The White Sox have ridden their starting rotation to first place in the American League Central standings, and Lynn has been arguably the team's most reliable horse. Of course, that's exactly what they were looking for when they made the win-now deal to acquire him in December, dealing away the promising career of young Dane Dunning for one year of the uber-dependable Lynn, an attribute they sorely needed after the way their season ended in the first round of the playoffs last fall.

 

The White Sox needed Lynn because they didn't have anyone to call on for Game 3 of that series against the Oakland Athletics.

Now, it's easy to see Lynn being the guy Tony La Russa calls on to start Game 1 of the White Sox next postseason series.

"You know, when you come over, you want to make a good first impression," Lynn said last week in Minnesota. "I just try to be myself. That’s the main thing. You come over and be yourself. You don’t try to do something that is out of your comfort zone, and you can be more of yourself the more open people are.

"I just try to go out there and compete and hopefully we win the game. That’s what I do."

He does it well. The White Sox have won the majority of the games he's started, and he's made them look capable of winning a whole lot more, especially once the games reach their most meaningful in September and October.

Winning, and pitching with the kind of fire that Lynn does, makes friends fast, and Lynn has gained a special sort of popularity with White Sox fans who see him as the embodiment of the South Side style. It goes both ways, with Lynn saying that the South Side has felt more like a home than any other stop in his decade-long big league career.

But his popularity extends beyond the seats and into the clubhouse, where he's won constant plaudits for a new kind of leadership that's been added to a group that boasts a lot of successful leader types.

"It's just his leadership. He commands the room with the guys," White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz told NBC Sports Chicago last month. "The younger guys really respect him, want to hear what he has to say. He's been through a lot. So it's nice to have that kind of leadership and someone that guys can fall back on if they have any questions or thoughts. 'What did you do at this point of your career? How'd you get through it?'

 

"He cares about the younger guys. He wants to help. It's an all-around great personality to have in the clubhouse."

Would a younger guy care to confirm?

"I would say Lance, he's a glue piece for this team. Just having him around is huge," Heuer said. "He's a guy that's going to go out there and put the team on his back for as long as he can, and he's going to be pissed when he comes out. And that's something you build off. It's contagious.

"He's one of my guys. He's one of the guys I go to if I ever want to pick somebody's brain. ... It's easy to bounce everything off him because he's been there, done that. He's seen it all. He's got a ring, he's done all that."

So you can bet there will be eyes all over the country watching Lynn pitch Tuesday night. His teammates love him. His fellow South Siders love him. And the White Sox sure as heck love him for what he's delivered: one of the most reliable, dependable, best first halves in baseball — and visions of it all happening deep into October.

You wouldn't expect anything less from a Big Bastard.

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