Chicago White Sox

How Lucas Giolito overcame an inconsistent fastball and thrived against Royals

How Lucas Giolito overcame an inconsistent fastball and thrived against Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lucas Giolito didn’t have his best stuff on Wednesday and he thrived anyway. Catcher Kevan Smith thinks it has a lot to do with the pitcher’s large frame and the movement on his pitches.

The 6-foot-6 Giolito had poor fastball command early, only induced a few swings and misses and put six runners on base in the first three innings. But that didn’t prevent him from success. The White Sox rookie induced a boatload of weak contact over 6 1/3 strong innings to help send the White Sox to a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

“His stuff is moving,” Smith said. “Guys get in the box joking, ‘This guy is 7-foot-5, how am I supposed to hit?’ It’s funny when guys have that perspective with him. It’s fun seeing a pitch that he didn’t hit his spot but guys pop it up. It’s like, ‘All right, something is moving there,’ especially with the caliber of hitters on that side.”

It was evident in the first inning Giolito didn’t have crisp command. He walked two and gave up a single and only escaped with the helped of a botched double steal and a leaping grab by shortstop Tim Anderson.

Giolito’s fastball command issues carried into the third inning when he hit one batter and walked another. But the White Sox rookie needed only four pitches to rebound as Eric Hosmer struck out and Salvador Perez grounded into a force out.

“It was one of those battle days,” Giolito said. “Right out of the gate walking the first batter, two in the first inning. I definitely felt a little out of sync in the beginning.

“But once it got to situations with runners on base and less than two outs, especially, that’s when I really tried to slow the game down to my pace and make quality pitches. We were able to do that.”

The quality pitches early were critical. Consider that Giolito’s fastball averaged 91.6 mph (down from his 92.5 mph average) and he only induced six swings and misses. He also threw strikes on only 58 percent of his pitches (54 of 93).

But the Royals couldn’t take advantage.

“Gio did a nice job of just working through the game today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He got deep. His ball-to-strike ration wasn’t as effective. This outing might have been similar to his last outing in terms of strike effectiveness. But he kept working through it, got some big outs when he needed to and made some pitches when he needed to.”

Giolito finished with a run and four hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three. The strikeout total was significantly down from a Sept. 3 outing when Giolito struck out 10 hitters against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Giolito -- who has a 2.56 ERA in 31 2/3 innings in the majors -- suggested that the low strikeout total was because of poor fastball command. But he showed once again he isn’t afraid to pitch around an inconsistent fastball and the Royals struggled to hit what Giolito had. They produced an average exit velocity of only 73.9 mph on the balls they put in play, which resulted in a lot of easy outs.

“I think it depends on the stuff I’m bringing that day, especially commanding the fastball,” Giolito said. “I feel like I missed out on a lot of strikeouts today just not commanding the fastball and not getting ahead of guys as well as I would have liked.

“I’ll take early, weak contact over strikeouts any time just because as a starting pitcher it means you can throw more pitches, throw deeper into the game.”

Smith thinks Giolito can induce weak contact because of his height. Because Giolito is tall, he throws from a different, deceiving angle. That natural ability gives the 22-year-old a chance on days when his fastball isn’t popping like it can.

Only Perez did damage against Giolito with a solo homer in the sixth inning off a 91-mph fastball.

“The big thing for him is angle,” Smith said. “When he gets that he’s almost unhittable. He got burned on that one pitch there. But he did a great job getting through that first inning, dealing with those ups and down.

“Overall a solid outing.”

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

HOUSTON -- Two weeks ago Chris Volstad was focused on Hurricane Irma prep when the White Sox called to invite him to the majors. On Thursday night, he earned his first major league victory in more than five years as the White Sox defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 at Minute Maid Park.

Volstad, who had only made 10 big league appearances the previous four-plus seasons and spent all of 2017 at Triple-A Charlotte, allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings to pick up his first win since Sept. 10, 2012.

He hadn’t just shut it down after the Triple-A season ended, Volstad was actually shuttering his Jupiter, Fla. home and business the day the short-handed White Sox called.

“I was probably a little mentally shut down,” Volstad said. “But yeah, it’s kind of crazy how things can change. I guess it’s been about two weeks now. At home getting ready for a hurricane and then getting called back up to the big leagues.”

Volstad received word he might pitch early in Thursday’s game when a blister on Carson Fulmer’s right index finger worsened. Fulmer felt some discomfort after his Friday start at Detroit.

The White Sox let Fulmer try to go but yanked him after 20 pitches, including two walks. That brought out Volstad, who along with Al Alburquerque was promoted Sept. 10 after the White Sox lost several pitchers to injury.

The White Sox actually had to track Volstad down two weeks ago as he’d already been home for a week. He spent part of the time prepping for Irma, including boarding up his brewery.

He escaped a first-inning jam with a double play ball of the bat of Carlos Correa and ended a threat in the second with a pickoff at second base of Alex Bregman. After he surrendered a solo homer to Brian McCann in the third, Volstad retired the final eight men he faced.

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He was awarded his first victory since he defeated Thursday’s Astros starter Dallas Keuchel 1,836 days ago here. Volstad remembered the win because Houston was still in the National League and he had a base hit in the five-inning start for the Cubs. He went 3-12 for the Cubs that season.

“You’re able to lock it in pretty quickly and get focused at the big-league level, you have to,” Volstad said. “But being home in Triple-A for the last few years, just getting called up about 10 days ago, I’ve got people following it, but it’s kind of unknown I guess. It’s a little surprising, but I’m glad to be a part of a team for sure.”

Fulmer, Volstad, Jace Fry, Mike Pelfrey, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar and Juan Minaya combined on a three-hitter for the White Sox. Tim Anderson extended his hit streak to 12 games with a ninth-inning solo homer, his 17th.

White Sox add two cross checkers to amateur scouting department

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White Sox add two cross checkers to amateur scouting department

The White Sox hired two new national amateur scouting cross checkers, Tim Bittner and Juan Alvarez.

Bittner was a one-time White Sox farmhand who was included in a package for Scott Schoeneweis in 2003 while Alvarez was an undrafted pitcher who pitched in 80 major league games for the Angels, Rangers and Marlins from 1999-2003.

Bittner previously worked as a Houston Astros area scout while Alvarez held the same role for the Cleveland Indians. They replace Joe Siers, who moved over to the team’s pro scouting staff, and Mike Ledna, who took a job with the New York Mets.

“Both are very smart guys with playing experience,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “And they’re also coming from two clubs with a lot of recent success.

“I want to add as many smart, passionate, high-energy scouts to what I feel is a department already filled with scouts that check those boxes.”

The White Sox expect to have at least a top-four selection in the 2018 amateur draft. They headed into Thursday’s game with the second-worst record in the majors. Hostetler praised the 2018 draft class for its depth earlier this week.