Chicago White Sox

Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

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Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

Saturday, March 19, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m. Updated: 7:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX - In spite of looking weak and tossing his initial game warmups lightly to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy made just one big mistake in his start Saturday's vs. the Oakland A's.

That mistake came in the third, when Ryan Sweeney coaxed the first three-ball count from Peavy (3-0) and on 3-1 clocked a two-run homer to left-center.

Peavy left the game with two outs in the sixth, trailing 3-0. He threw 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Sweeney had led off the game with an infield single that could well have been judged an error on shortstop Alexei Ramirez. But Peavy coaxed a 4-6-3 double play from Daric Barton and then finished the inning by retiring Josh Willingham on a pop to right.

Willingham's at-bat was delayed when first base umpire Bill Miller doubled over as if in danger of becoming ill. Perhaps he caught the same flu bug Peavy has been battling for the past few days.

Peavy looked stronger in the second, getting DH Hideki Matsui to ground out to first. Lastings Milledge got a bad jump on a fly to right, but recovered enough to make a diving catch.

Peavy's best exchange came vs. sixth batter Mark Ellis, a three-pitch strikeout. Peavy appeared to throw his first curve and slider for a strike.

Prior to Sweeney's clout to give Oakland a 2-0 lead, Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded to first, Landon Powell singled sharply to right-center, and Eric Sogard flied to center. The third ended with Barton grounding out to first.

In the fourth, Peavy got Willingham to fly out to center after the left fielder battled hard. Then the righthander surrendered three singles in the next four hitters, with Kouzmanoff tapping home a run with a first-pitch safety to center to push the Oakland lead to three.

That knock pushed reliever Sergio Santos out of the dugout to begin warmng up. Peavy escaped the fourth after coaxing a flyout from Powell.

The hurler trotted back out for the fifth and retired the A's in order, on three fly outs. His last three batters came in the sixth, as Peavy surrendered a single to Willingham, then finished strong despite pitching on fumes, punching out Conor Jackson and Matsui on what the pitcher described as "a major league curveball."

Peavy was in line for the loss after giving up seven hits and three earned runs, while striking out three and walking none.

The hurler admitted he was "aching all over" after the outing and said he felt his velocity was higher in this start and he got stronger as the day went on.

Peavy was optimistic in looking toward the future, discussing his plans to go home and attempt to eat (he hasn't kept any food down for two days), sleep 10-12 hours and will be shooting for a "a real major-league start" (around 100 pitches) his next outing, Thursday night against the Cubs.
Guillen names Thornton closer

After his Chicago White Sox dropped their rematch with the Oakland As in Phoenix, manager Ozzie Guillen named lefthander Matt Thornton as his closer.

I talked to Thornton, Guillen said. I said he would get the chance to be the closer A good percent of the time, he will be the guy Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence in him. He is the guy who can do the job better.

Thornton, who had eight saves in 10 chances in 2010 but was perfect as the teams de facto closer while Bobby Jenks was sidelined after Sept. 3, was in competition with rookie Chris Sale for the job. Sale has struggled with his location so far in Cactus League play; while he has just two walks this spring, his ERA is 6.48 and batters are hitting .351 against him.

Sale, we would have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, Guillen said. This kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

Although Guillen has promised significant roster or lineup decisions for a few days now, he had no other news beyond naming his closer.
Fighting for the final spots
The manager did confirm that Mark Teahens offensive outburst this spring has secured his place on the roster, likely playing both third base and the outfield. Guillen indicated he would be getting Teahen would get some opportunities to be in the outfield before we break camp.

Reliever Gregory Infante had a poor outing, surrendering five earned runs in a ruinous eighth inning and pushing his spring ERA to 11.57, Guillen remained supportive, saying, He pitched well, I dont think he should feel bad. That happens to everybody in spring. I like the way he throws the ball. Everybody has a bad game.

Still, Infante has likely lost his hold on a possible last man in the bullpen position, a competition that is whittling down to Phil Humber, Josh Kinney, and Jeffrey Marquez.

In the three-way battle for the last spot on the bench, Lastings Milledge continued tightening his grip on the spot, going 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout. He turned on the afterburners to cut off a potential double into the gap, but also got a poor jump on a flyball, forcing a diving catch, and was thrown out at third on a terrific Brent Lillibridge bunt because he failed to slide. Lillibridge executed that terrific bunt and played a solid center field, but was otherwise 1-4, leaving five men on base. Alejandro De Aza was 0-1 as a pinch-hitter, but his flyout was a ball that was drilled to left.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

By the numbers: Lucas Giolito showed impressive control in White Sox debut

By the numbers: Lucas Giolito showed impressive control in White Sox debut

Lucas Giolito didn't pick up a win in his White Sox debut, but there were plenty of encouraging signs. 

At the top of that list has to be his control, which was an issue that plagued the Sox No. 6 prospect in the past

Here's a closer look at his precision last night against the Twins: 

0 - Maybe the most important number of all. Giolito did not walk a single batter. 

- Giolito hit one Twin. It was Brian Dozier on the first at-bat of the game. First-game nerves? We'll chalk it up to that. 

64 - Giolito hurled 64 strikes out of 99 pitches, resulting in a strike percentage above league average

[MORE: Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut drew rave reviews

A fair number of those strikes the 23-year-old threw were hit hard, though. CSN's Dan Hayes noted the exit velocities against Giolito in the first inning: 

Although he got out of that inning unscathed, Minnesota did get to the right-hander: 

- The number of dingers slammed off Giolitio. 

The exit velocities on those, according to MLB Exit Velocity

98.9 - Jorge Polanco's fourth inning homer.

105.5 - Kennys Vargas' fifth inning homer.

104.3 - Eddie Rosario's sixth inning homer. 

All of the homers hit were on fastballs, which was his go-to pitch according to Hayes. Here's a look at his pitch selection: 

69 - Fastballs

16 - Changeups

12 - Curveballs

The bottom line: 

4 - Earned runs Giolito gave up. 

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.”