Chicago White Sox

Derek Holland finally gets a confidence booster after two frustrating months

Derek Holland finally gets a confidence booster after two frustrating months

It was only a small step, but Derek Holland will take it.

The White Sox pitcher emphasized that Wednesday’s effort had its imperfections — he walked four batters and the White Sox lost.

But for the first time since the middle of June, Holland also was able to exit a start without ripping his hair out. Holland allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched. Given how nine of his previous 10 starts have gone, saving those follicles for another day is just fine. Holland made his first quality start since June 13, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from topping the White Sox 5-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Holland said. “The whole time me and (Don Cooper) and (Curt Hasler) have been talking about this is it’s going to be a process. It’s not just going to happen overnight. Granted, it’s been a while. It is only one start. I’m not going to sit here and get super excited. I still have to continue to keep pitching. Being consistent is what it’s all about.”

Holland has been consistent since the start of June, just not the way he’d prefer. Over his past 10 starts, the left-hander carried a 9.46 ERA, which ballooned his season mark from 2.37 to 5.42. He’d put 92 runners on base in that span and yielded 17 home runs over 45.2 innings.

The frustration of those efforts had caught up with Holland, who after his previous start on Friday night said he needed to step up his “s---.”

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Wednesday’s contest had a different feeling though as Holland worked in and out of traffic for six innings.

“Made a few adjustments,” said catcher Kevan Smith, who went 2-for-3 with a walk. “Just kind of attacked the hitters, two out of the first three strikes. Kind of expanded a few pitches because he gets in trouble a few times when he runs back over the plate. Just kind of varied where I was setting up on the plate and we just kept the upbeat pace and attacking hitters mentality and very successful today.”

Holland didn’t think he made vast changes to his game plan. He’s always focused on getting ground balls. But the left-hander did think he adhered better to the approach the White Sox wanted to take.

“It just felt like execution was better today than probably in the past few starts,” Holland said. “The main thing is, you can’t get caught up in those things. Whether you’re a groundball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher, whatever, you still have to go out there and keep your defense on their toes and let them make the plays happen. I felt like today I kept those guys on their toes where they needed to be and the execution was way better.”

Both Holland and the White Sox would love if this is the beginning of a trend. Healthy once again, Holland is headed for free agency after the season. But the White Sox would love to cash in before that and potentially trade the left-hander before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

To get there, however, Holland would have to maintain the consistency he had over his first 10 starts when he posted a 2.37 ERA.

“Good outing,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Great outing, actually. Into his last inning, down 1-0, obviously gives up a solo homer to Pearce, but gosh, he did much better today. A lot of ground balls, made a lot of pitches when he needed to and gave us a chance.”

Why White Sox pushed Carson Fulmer's final start back until Saturday


Why White Sox pushed Carson Fulmer's final start back until Saturday

The White Sox have pushed back Carson Fulmer’s final start for precautionary reasons even though he’s made progress with his blister.

Fulmer will next pitch on Saturday night at the Cleveland Indians. He exited his previous start on Thursday after only 20 pitches because of a blister on his right index finger. Veteran Chris Volstad will start instead of Fulmer.

But Fulmer said on Monday afternoon he felt ready after a 25-pitch bullpen session on Sunday. He also understood the White Sox might want to let his finger completely heal before what will be his final turn of the 2017 season.

“I was able to go through all my pitches,” Fulmer said before the announcement was made. “Didn’t have any issues. Feels really good.

“Obviously, the decision is up to them. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if they want to take precautions.

“But I’m all good to go. … Feel great and hopefully this time it doesn’t open up or give me discomfort.”

The White Sox are erring on the side of caution so that Fulmer’s final turn won’t be disrupted. By waiting an extra several days, the club is limiting a reoccurrence of a blister that initially bothered Fulmer near the end of his Sept. 15 start at Detroit.

“Give it a couple of more days to heal up,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It fits. He’ll be able to hopefully get out there and feel comfortable. He threw a side yesterday and it was fine. It’s just making sure he’s able to get through his start.”

After plenty of treatment, Fulmer has improved much over the past few days. Fulmer said the treatment included sealing, solution, super glue and eventually peeling skin.

“New skin is coming in,” Fulmer said. “It’s not very sensitive.

“Feel really good. It’s a lot better than it was last time.”

Confidence continues to build after Lucas Giolito's latest strong start

Confidence continues to build after Lucas Giolito's latest strong start

Nothing is proven, Lucas Giolito will have to come back next season and show he can do this once again. But another huge development in the White Sox rebuild has been the continued development and success of Giolito late in the season.

The young White Sox pitcher added another outstanding performance to the ledger on Sunday afternoon.

Giolito pitched seven sharp innings and helped the White Sox officially avoid 100 losses in an 8-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. He allowed a run and five hits with five strikeouts and no walks. It’s another step in a nice turnaround for Giolito, who struggled at Triple-A earlier in the year.

“I feel like this is where I can pitch,” Giolito said. “I can pitch deep into games. I wouldn't really say awestruck or anything like that. I’d say that there’s a lot of struggles there earlier this year. I worked through those … I feel like getting the confidence back up, it’s all I really needed to feel comfortable and be ready to go.”

Some of the metrics would suggest Giolito is in line for a dropoff. While his earned-run average is 2.38, his Fielding Independent Pitching is 4.94. His xFIP is a little lower at 4.42. But the elevated numbers are in part due to Giolito not missing as many bats and striking out 6.75 batters per nine innings.

But Giolito’s big-league numbers also come at a time in which he has never pitched more. He has pitched a combined 174 innings this season, which dwarfs his previous high of 136 2/3 innings in 2016.

Despite the workload, the right-hander continues to bring good stuff. He got seven swings and misses and 10 called strikes with his four-seam fastball, which averaged 92.3 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

“He's got angle, he's got height,” manager Rick Renteria said “He's got good angle so that creates, believe or not, some deception and he can ride it up out of the zone. And then he comes out from that angle with the breaking ball or his changeup. So the angle creates some pretty good deception.”

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Giolito has filled up the strikezone since he reached the majors partly because of belief in his stuff. He’s thrown strikes on 63.4 percent of his pitches and was even better Sunday with 65 of 98 offerings. The other part of it is trust in his defense, which made several spectacular plays behind him.

Giolito knows this is only the beginning. But he feels good after a stretch in which he has quality starts in five of six games. Over the stretch he has a 1.83 ERA and 25 hits allowed with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.

“My confidence is there,” Giolito said. “I trust my stuff, I trust my pitches. There are things to work on, things I’m talking to (Don Cooper) about. There’s always stuff to improve, for sure. I’d say that just the confidence and everything is right where it needs to be so I’m going to continue to try and pitch like I am.”