White Sox

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Don Cooper with the inside scoop on the White Sox pitching staff

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Don Cooper with the inside scoop on the White Sox pitching staff

With the regular season getting closer, Chuck Garfien gets the goods from Don Cooper about many White Sox pitchers. The decision to have Carlos Rodon start on Opening Day (3:00), what Lucas Giolito needs to improve on in 2019 (6:16), what they're doing to make Ivan Nova a better pitcher this year (8:10), improving Ervin Santana's velocity and will he be the fifth starter? (11:50), what Dylan Cease needs to work on in the minors (13:20), what other pitching prospect besides Cease will take the biggest stride in 2019? (14:30)

Coop also talks about Kelvin Herrera, Alex Colome, Zach Thompson, Thyago Vieira, Nate Jones and more.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Minnesota Twins

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Minnesota Twins

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

If the Twins were anything this offseason, they were busy. Whether they're vastly improved or not, that remains to be seen.

Twins fans probably are experiencing whiplash after the past several seasons: a 103-loss campaign in 2016, then a playoff trip in 2017 via the wild card, then back to a sub-.500 record and an uneventful October in 2018.

But the rebuild-heavy AL Central presents an opportunity for the Twins, who could capitalize on 19 games apiece against the White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, three teams that combined for more than 300 losses in 2018. And so the Minnesota front office got to work this winter and added quite a bit to this roster.

The biggest names among the newcomers are Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz. Gonzalez is two years off a big 2017 season, when his .303/.377/.530 slash line and 23 home runs helped fuel the Houston Astros to a World Series championship. He was one of the best players available on this winter's free-agent market, noted for his versatility after playing every position besides pitcher and catcher last season. Cruz is 38 and shouldn't be considered a part of any team's long-term plans, but the Twins want him for the 40-homer average he's posted over the last half decade.

That boost to the Twins' lineup gets amplified even more when you consider new additions Jonathan Schoop, who believe it or not put up better numbers than Manny Machado in 2017, and C.J. Cron, who launched 30 homers for the Tampa Bay Rays last season.

All those guys join what the Twins already had, chiefly Eddie Rosario, who had a big 2018. More specifically, though, he had a big first half, batting .311/.353/.537 with 19 homers before the All-Star break and just .240/.262/.361 with five homers after it.

So that's all very nice, and just on the new additions alone, that stacks up well against the Cleveland Indians' lineup, which isn't terribly imposing beyond the two MVP candidates on the left side of the infield. But are Gonzalez and Cruz and Cron and Schoop really enough to make the Twins a legit contender?

First off, it's important to note that none of the aforementioned players are pitchers. The Twins have a terrific starting pitcher in Jose Berrios, probably the best player on the team. He had a 3.84 ERA and 202 strikeouts in his 192.1 innings of work last season. And Kyle Gibson, my fellow Missouri Tiger, had himself an under-the-radar season in 2018, too, with a 3.62 ERA and 179 strikeouts. Jake Odorizzi wasn't quite as good, with a 4.49 ERA, but all three of those guys made 32 starts. The other two parts of the Twins' rotation? Michael Pineda, who hasn't pitched since July of 2017, and Martin Perez, who had a 6.22 ERA with the Texas Rangers last season.

In other words, that's not bad but nothing that comes close to what the Indians have, a loaded rotation that might be baseball's finest from top to bottom.

The busy Twins also added a new closer in former Cub and Los Angeles Angel Blake Parker, who had a 2.90 ERA in his two seasons in Anaheim.

It's a lengthy list of changes that have come to the Twin Cities — and it's without even mentioning new manager Rocco Baldelli, better known to Rhode Islanders as the Woonsocket Rocket — but even in a division where three teams are going through the growing pains of rebuilding processes, is it enough to get the Twins back to the postseason? Plenty of observers seem to think so, and it's not an outlandish opinion. But their pitching staff doesn't boast the same crop of All-Star talent as the Indians' does. They don't have the big bats the Indians' lineup has.

Now, winning the AL Central isn't the only path to the playoffs, but with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees locks to gobble up the AL East crown and the top AL wild card spot, there's only one other option and more competition. Certainly the Twins are among the contenders for that spot, but they'll have to hit on many if not all of their offseason adds.

2018 record: 78-84, second place in AL Central

Offseason additions: Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, Blake Parker, Martin Perez

Offseason departures: Joe Mauer, Ervin Santana, Logan Morrison, Logan Forsythe, Robbie Grossman

X-factor: Gonzalez really is the definition of an X-factor, and it's shocking he didn't generate greater interest during the offseason. His ability to play every position on the field would figure to be a mighty valuable thing to all 30 teams. The Twins are the ones who landed him, and he can be their Swiss Army Knife all season long. But will he hit? A dynamite 2017 that saw him land in the top 20 in AL MVP voting segued to a disappointing 2018, during which he slashed just .247/.324/.409 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs, numbers down from .303/.377/.530, 23 and 90 the year prior despite an increase in plate appearances. 

Projected lineup:

1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2. C.J. Cron, 1B
3. Eddie Rosario, LF
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. Max Kepler, RF
6. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
7. Marwin Gonzalez, 3B
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Byron Buxton, CF

Projected rotation:

1. Jose Berrios
2. Kyle Gibson
3. Jake Odorizzi
4. Michael Pineda
5. Martin Perez

Prediction: Second place in AL Central, no playoffs

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