Chicago White Sox

All-out effort results in on-time arrival to White Sox camp for pitcher Cory Luebke

All-out effort results in on-time arrival to White Sox camp for pitcher Cory Luebke

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cory Luebke kept his word and reported to White Sox camp on time after the birth of his first child earlier this week. All it took was a 24-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn., to Phoenix to make it happen.

Luebke told White Sox manager Rick Renteria he would make every effort to report for the team's first workout on Tuesday. But he wasn't sure how he'd pull it off as his wife remained in the hospital until late Sunday night after giving birth to their son.

After weighing their options, Luebke and his father decided driving was the best choice. So they put the pitcher's two dogs in the family truck at 3 a.m. on Monday and the two alternated between driving and sleeping for 24 consecutive hours, only stopping for gas and restroom breaks. Several days later, Luebke, a non-roster invitee to camp who threw his second bullpen session on Thursday, said he has finally caught up on sleep.

"So me and my dad started packing later Sunday night, trying to look at some flights and said, 'Hey, screw it, let's get in the truck and we can be there tomorrow,'" Luebke said. "It wasn't too bad. Dad took the first five or six (hours), and I took the next part. Drove, napped, drove, napped, got here, made it to my physical."

The length Luebke went to arrive on time shouldn't come as a surprise given what he's endured since May 2012.

Luebke, 31, was two months into a contract extension with the San Diego Padres that could have paid him nearly $28 million and pitching extremely well when he needed reconstructive elbow surgery.

In September 2013, Luebke's rehab assignment was shut down after several bullpen sessions, and in February 2014 he required a second Tommy John surgery after doctors found another tear and that his first surgery didn't take. The Ohio State product was primed to pitch again in 2015 — he made seven appearances in the Padres' farm system — before a staph infection ended his season.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Luebke persisted despite his troubles and made the Pittsburgh Pirates' Opening Day roster in 2016, pitching in nine games before he was sent to Triple-A. Though he struggled in the majors, Luebke found a rhythm at Indianapolis, posting a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 29 strikeouts.

"Just looking back, I probably wasn't quite ready yet," Luebke said. "Stuff was good, (the Pirates) liked the upside they saw. Had my old stuff back, just wasn't locating well. After that first month I went down to Triple-A for a few months and it all started to come back."

Luebke has continued to feel well this offseason and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox in January. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman said Luebke would earn $1 million if he makes the big league roster. Given how good he feels, it's no wonder Luebke wanted to get to camp as quickly as possible. The White Sox could potentially keep a second left-handed reliever this season, and Luebke is in the mix.

But Luebke's son, Jackson, didn't arrive until eight days after his due date. In labor for 30 hours starting last Wednesday, Luebke's wife had a C-section. While the couple's child was healthy, the procedure resulted in complication's for Luebke's wife.

"The first few hours I didn't know how to feel because you look over one way and you've got a baby boy and he's doing great and you look over the other way and see your wife struggling," Luebke said. "It was tough. But it all worked out, and they're doing good now."

Roughly three hours after they arrived home Sunday night, the player, his dad and the dogs headed for Phoenix after packing. Luebke's mother stayed in Nashville to help out his wife and the baby, who are expected to join him later this spring. In the meantime, Luebke has spent much of the first few days in camp on FaceTime or looking at baby pictures. He also has managed to catch up on rest after five sleepless nights, which he said left him in a dream-like state.

Despite being a little out of it, Renteria said Luebke has looked good in camp so far.

"He's starting to hit his spots," Renteria said. "He looks like he's progressing to where he's ultimately going to be where he was previously, hopefully."

The team's new manager also said he was surprised to see Luebke report on time. Luebke, who was with the Padres at the same time as Renteria, had been in constant contact with his former coach and kept him apprised of the situation.

"He said he was going to make every effort and he did," Renteria said.

Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut drew rave reviews

Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut drew rave reviews

Lucas Giolito’s first outing may not have netted the outcome the White Sox hoped for, but the look and feel was most definitely there.

The team’s sixth-ranked prospect showed just how much progress he’s made the over the entire season and in particular the last six weeks in his White Sox debut on Tuesday night.

Giolito was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte early Tuesday and looked poised and confident for six innings despite a heavy reliance on the fastball because his curve wasn’t where he wanted. While he yielded three home runs in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Giolito and the White Sox liked what they saw.

“Excellent,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I thought it was a very positive outing.

“Lucas I thought threw the ball very, very well. Fastball was very good. He was using his breaking ball. He threw some that were a little short. But all and all, I thought his mound presence, his attack of the strike zone -- I don’t think he walked anybody, he threw a lot of strikes -- he looked very, very good to me. Very pleased.”

Once the top pitching prospect in baseball, Giolito had lost a little bit of the shine even by the time he was traded to the White Sox last December in the Adam Eaton deal. He struggled at times during a nomadic 2016 campaign with the Nationals -- he was moved seven times in all -- and saw a dip in fastball velocity as his mechanics got out of whack.

Though excited by the trade to the White Sox, Giolito admitted in spring training he wasn’t quite where he yet wanted to be. He struggled early this season at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 5.40 ERA in his first 16 starts and often failed to pitch deep into games.

But along the way Giolito found his confidence, rediscovered his curveball and began to pitch more consistently. That was the pitcher the White Sox saw on Tuesday night, the one who despite not having his entire arsenal didn’t panic.

Working almost entirely with his fastball -- 69 of his 99 pitchers were four-seamers -- Giolito pitched at a quick pace and got into a rhythm. Giolito got 10 swings and misses, including eight with the fastball, and didn’t walk anyone.

“I felt relaxed,” Giolito said. “I felt confident the whole time.

“I feel like tonight I was able to control the game a lot better. Last year my time in the big leagues the game would speed up on me a lot. I’d walk a guy, give up a couple of base hits and start to kind of get out of control. Tonight, I felt under control, I was able to trust my stuff, it was just those mistakes.”

Giolito’s outing wasn’t perfect. He tried to go inside with fastballs three times and left them over the middle. Jorge Polanco blasted a game-tying solo homer off Giolito in the fourth, Kennys Vargas hit one off him in the fifth and Eddie Rosario hit a two-run, opposite-field shot in the sixth.

[MORE: White Sox may have discovered 'diamond in the rough' in Juan Minaya

But that he was effective enough to keep the White Sox in the game in spite of his offense, which blew bases-loaded opportunities in the second and third innings, and minus all of his pitches wasn’t lost on Omar Narvaez. Narvaez liked how Giolito competed and the way he spotted his fastball in and out, up and down.

“I think he’s going to be one of our best pitchers,” Narvaez said. “His fastball is kind of sneaky and he has a great changeup. He uses it whenever he wants to and he has a really, really good curveball.

“He made a lot of good pitches (with the fastball). Every time we worked behind he just came back with the fastball.”

Giolito threw his curveball 12 times and used the changeup 16. While he induced a few groundballs with his curve, Giolito wasn’t as effective in two-strike situations, spiking the pitch in front of the plate. Even so, Giolito felt good about what he accomplished and that’s great for the White Sox.

“I feel like I belong,” Giolito said. “I feel like my stuff plays. I’m happy I didn’t walk anyone tonight. I was able to command the fastball pretty well, but fastball-changeup was pretty much all I had. I wasn’t throwing the curveball as well as I would have liked, but I’m going to work on that for the next start and hopefully be able to command that pitch a little better.”

White Sox may have discovered 'diamond in the rough' in Juan Minaya

White Sox may have discovered 'diamond in the rough' in Juan Minaya

Trades and injuries have forced Rick Renteria into open tryouts when it comes to closing out ballgames.

So far, Juan Minaya has proven to have the steadiest hand.

The White Sox rookie reliever converted his third save in three tries since his tryout began five days ago. By no means would the White Sox manager officially name anyone the closer in a mostly green bullpen that has seen five pitchers traded and two more lost to season-ending injuries. But Renteria has been impressed with how Minaya has handled ninth inning.

“He's done a nice job,” Renteria said. “We've used him in many different situations over the course of the season. As it turns out, with all the changes that we've had in terms of personnel, we're trying to use guys in different situations and see how they respond. Sometimes you kind of find a little diamond in the rough and so far, he's been kind of our little diamond in the rough.”

The White Sox are glad to have unearthed Minaya, whom they claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros in June 2016. Though he has only pitched in 38 games in his career, Minaya is one of the more experienced relievers in a bullpen that has seen David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard all traded in the last month. The White Sox also lost Nate Jones, Zach Putnam and prospect Zack Burdi to season-ending elbow injuries.

Jake Petricka is the only reliever left from the team’s Opening Day roster. With 232 games, Danny Farquhar also offers an experienced hand in the bullpen. But beyond that, the White Sox bullpen consists of converted starters -- Mike Pelfrey and Dylan Covey -- and rookies.

The situation has led to Minaya, who once saved eight games at Single-A Quad City in 2013, becoming the de facto closer.

“This is a good opportunity,” Minaya said. “I never had that before, so now I’ve got the opportunity, and I’m going to work hard. I’m going to take advantage. I’m going to learn to do that because it is a tough situation in that moment.”

Minaya, 26, said Renteria has implored all of his young relievers to allow themselves to think of the ninth inning as if it were the same as the seventh or eighth. But Minaya -- who has 40 strikeouts and a 4.50 ERA in 32 innings this season -- said that pretending the innings are the same is easier said than done.

“It’s one of the most important parts of the game,” Minaya said. “To be in the ninth inning is a tough situation right there. Everybody wants to be in that spot.

“It’s been a little tough, but that’s part of the game. We continue to play the game. We have to think it’s like the seventh or eighth inning. It’s the same.

“We have to think that it’s the same. But it’s not the same.”

Still, Renteria likes how Minaya showed resolve when faced with adversity on Sunday at the Texas Rangers. The right-hander brushed off a potential collapse after Roughned Odor got the Rangers within 3-2 with a two-out, two-run homer off Minaya. Minaya bounced back and retired Elvis Andrus on a fly out to end the game and earn his second save.

“Despite giving up a homer in that one, he actually looked very confident out there so that didn't jar him,” Renteria said. “And he still comes to the ballpark, he's a hard worker, very detailed in everything he does, and he continues to give you a great attitude, and he wants the ball whenever you give it to him.”