Lance Lynn has provided the Chicago White Sox with something they were desperately missing last season.
The offseason trade acquisition filled the team's biggest hole, bringing in a reliable third starting-pitching option behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, the lack of which was the most glaring reason the 2020 team was bounced from the postseason in the first round.
Of course, thanks to the way Carlos Rodón has pitched so far this season and the way Dylan Cease has pitched for much of it, the White Sox are now blessed with more than just three starting pitchers, the surest way to stay competitive in any playoff series.
But Lynn — who recently described himself by saying, "I've always been an a--h---" — has brought something else, a style and a swagger that the White Sox are benefitting from in 2021, too.
"Intent," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said Thursday, asked what Lynn has brought that was missing last year. "He knows exactly what he wants to do. He wants to attack guys and attack the strike zone and make these guys swing.
"He’s going to give you the best he’s got, whether he wins or loses. He’s still going to come at you. He wants to be in there as long as possible."
It was Tim Anderson talking during the offseason about how this team could use a little more edge than it had last season, a killer instinct and a refusal to take the figurative foot off the figurative gas pedal.
Lynn's got it, even showing he's got the pitcher version of Anderson's celebratory bat flips in him by making a habit of unleashing a turnaround holler in big moments. He's showed no shyness in weighing in on minor controversies and stuck up for Giolito when the ace of the staff was ejected from Thursday's game. And he's lived up to his own preseason billing as someone who never wants to come out of a ballgame and will fight whoever tries to take him out.
Thursday, Lynn went just six innings in the White Sox win over the Detroit Tigers, playing it safe after feeling a little tightness late in his outing. But even in describing how he played it safe, Lynn revealed that his attitude was the same as it's always been.
"They were sitting there talking to me like, 'What do you think?'" Lynn explained. "And I was like, 'Well, I want to go back out.' They're like, 'Do you need to?' And I was like, 'Well, I want to.'
"But our bullpen was in a good spot with the day off (Wednesday). It's good to give them a clean inning. And we won the game. ... We've got an off day coming up on Monday, so hopefully nine outs isn't too much for them to cover."
Lynn was actually slated to pitch on short rest Wednesday. His schedule has been pushed around by rainouts recently. He was supposed to start last Friday's game against the Baltimore Orioles, which was postponed due to rain, but with Michael Kopech dealing with a strained hamstring, the White Sox needed both Lynn and Keuchel to throw during Saturday's doubleheader. That set up Lynn to go on short rest Wednesday in Cleveland, but that game was also washed away.
That allowed the White Sox to keep Lynn on normal rest. But going on short rest didn't sound like it was going to be a problem for Mr. "I Want the Ball."
"There was no worry there," Lynn said. "We didn't have to do it. But if there comes a time in October when it needs to happen, obviously I'll be more than willing to let it fly."
And of course that's why Lynn was acquired in the first place, for October.
Lynn already has a World Series ring on his finger, the one he won a decade ago pitching as a rookie for Tony La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals. He's been there, done that. And "that," in recent years, has meant being one of the best pitchers in baseball. White Sox fans are seeing it up close in person these days, and Lynn should be right in the thick of the Cy Young conversation with his best-in-baseball 1.23 ERA.
The White Sox went searching for reliability this winter, and they parted with the promising long-term career of Dane Dunning in order to get it. But boy, did they find it in Lynn. And once October comes around, there will be no head-scratching, no wondering what a starting pitcher can give them with the season on the line.
They know what they'll be getting from the big righty. And it will be pretty darn good.
"That's what it's all about," Lynn said. "You try to take the ball every five days and go as long as you can and help the team. When you leave, you gave the team a chance to win that day.
"That's always been my motto since, heck, as long as I can remember, even back when I was a little kid: Do everything you can and leave it all out there and help your team that day."
There have been a lot of days like that for Lynn and the White Sox already this season. As summer arrives in Chicago, they're hoping those days will stretch deep into the fall.