Fans playing along with the White Sox waiting game had reason to smile for a second straight Sunday.
Lucas Giolito turned in his second consecutive stellar outing, silencing the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and taking the next step in his quest to be a part of the White Sox rotation of the future.
It’s going to be a crowded field, one would figure. Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Giolito are already at the big league level, with Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning taking turns dazzling in the minor leagues. But Giolito, at least through his first three games in a White Sox uniform, has stated his case for being as strong a candidate as any to earn a spot on that future starting staff.
Sunday, he shut down the Rays’ lineup, holding them to one run on three hits over seven innings. This after he tossed seven shutout frames against the Detroit Tigers a week earlier. Combine the last two outings with his first, when he allowed four runs in six innings against the Minnesota Twins, and Giolito has a 2.25 ERA in his first three trips to the mound since joining the White Sox.
“He threw very, very well,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Riding his fastball, using his changeup really effectively, breaking ball mixed in. I though he attacked hitters, just went right after them. They were taking some very uncomfortable swings, it seemed like, so there must be obviously some deception to his delivery.
“The ball comes out of his hand pretty good, and it’s getting on top of those hitters. The 91, 92 looks like 95, 96 probably to them. He did a very, very nice job. Very, very nice job.”
This isn’t Giolito’s first taste of big league ball, mind you. He had a rocky go of things last season with the Washington Nationals, making one start in June, two in July and one in August before a pair of September relief appearances. All in all he posted a 6.75 ERA over 21.1 innings.
At 20 innings with the White Sox over the past few weeks, he’s faring much better, perhaps a credit to the South Siders’ place in the standings. The last-place season is allowing Giolito — and plenty of other young players, for that matter — to focus on improving and developing and not worrying about a roster spot.
“Knowing that I’m here and I’m not going anywhere and I get to work on what I need to work on and go out and compete every fifth day without having to worry about ‘Am I going to be sent down? Am I going to perform well enough?’ Just going out there and competing and giving it my all every time, it’s much more relaxed,” Giolito said. “I’m really enjoying it so far.”
Of course, that setup is also allowing the White Sox to get a look at a guy who could wind up in that rotation of the future.
While Kopech dominates the minors and Hansen and Dunning take turns racking up big strikeout totals, Giolito, Lopez and even the slightly more experienced Rodon can continue their own developments at the big league level and earn experience against big league lineups.
Giolito can count Sunday as a solid step forward. He struck out 10 Rays batters in the White Sox 6-2 win.
“Just continuing to feel comfortable out there throwing any pitch in any count,” he said. “I think that’s pretty important at this level, being able to throw that slider behind or throw a changeup behind, keep guys off balance. Just going out there and working and feeling like I can get my best stuff out there every time. Feeling really good.”
“He looked just as composed as he did his last outing,” Renteria said. “It’s like anything, as you continue to trust the stuff that you have and you’re able to command it and you’re seeing that you’re getting big league hitters out, good big league hitters, I think it’s just a matter of continuing to maintain his approach and the consistency with which he’s delivering the pitch to the plate. And now it’s just time. Time will start to tell us who he is or isn’t. Right now, thankfully, it’s a pretty good start for him.”
That’s one thing the White Sox are currently blessed with, time. And Giolito and the others will figure to get plenty of it to prove whether or not they belong in the franchise’s long-term plans. Ever since the White Sox acquired Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade this past offseason, he’s figured to be in those plans. Now he’s proving it.
It might be a last-place season on the South Side, but the future is already happening.
“You always want to win. That’s my goal every time I go out there: I want to give the team a chance to win, put up as many zeroes as possible,” Giolito said, who now has two wins in his last two outings. “But having all the young talent starting to work together and build up together, it’s really fun. And I’m looking forward to the future a lot.”