Chicago White Sox

Why White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season

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USA TODAY

Why White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Though many of his Charlotte teammates are in the majors and his own prospects for a promotion are promising, Lucas Giolito doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

The Triple-A Charlotte pitcher is absolutely thrilled for teammates Yoan Moncada, Aaron Bummer, Nicky Delmonico and Reynaldo Lopez. He hopes to be there in Chicago to join them soon, too. But given all the effort he’s put in to reach this place, a spot in which he’s produced the consistency he desires, Giolito wants to keep his focus.

His overall numbers aren’t what he’d like, but Giolito -- who is 5-10 with a 4.70 ERA in 23 starts -- feels comfortable with what he has accomplished in 2017. The right-hander’s curveball is sharp, he’s throwing his offspeed pitches in all types of situations and pitching deeper into games.

“It’s super exciting,” Giolito said of teammates’ promotions. “At the same time, the position I’m in, the stuff I’m trying to work on, I can’t be worried about when am I getting the call. …

“You don’t want to put the GM hat on. I’m here to play. I’m here to go out there every fifth day and win for my team. I’m here in Charlotte and that’s what I’m here to do and I’m going to keep working on that.”

Those fifth days have been much better of late. Giolito pitched fewer than five innings in six of his first 16 starts this season. He had allowed 85 hits in 83 1/3 innings and posted a 5.40 ERA. Opposing hitters produced an .835 OPS against Giolito.

[MORE: Two of White Sox top 10 prospects get minor league promotions

But a curveball he’d been working to command since spring training and throw for called strikes has started to come around. Giolito said the improvement has come from a combination of better mechanics and commitment to throwing and trusting the pitch. He also trusts that the work he puts in with pitching coach Steve McCatty between starts has him in the right place to succeed, which has allowed him to not overthink things.

“There were some games I really just wouldn’t have it, I’d be throwing it in the dirt, it wasn’t a competitive pitch,” Giolito said. “Now I go out there with confidence every outing that I can throw it over for a strike.”

“Early in the season there were a lot of starts where I was thinking about too many things at the same time of trying to get guys out and pitch deep into games. It’s too much. Now I go out there and I’m not worried about the stuff that I’m working on in the four days in between starts.”

Giolito has also continued to throw the slider/cutter that he learned this spring with more success. Between that, his curve and changeup, Giolito said he’s worked to throw all of his pitches in different counts so he can do the same with comfort in the majors.

But spotting the curveball for strikes consistently is a big key. In his last outing, Giolito said he threw roughly 20 curves with confidence.

“He’s just simplified his delivery, simplified his thought process and he’s been able to kind of execute the plan that he has,” White Sox player development director Chris Getz said. “That is commanding his fastball and curveball for strikes. He’s had an effective slider and his changeup has been pretty good. The stuff is good. The delivery can be very good. That’s what’s he has been able to do, just kind of putting it all together

“The combination of all those things will give him a good chance to be effective up here at this level.”

One American League scout said of Giolito that “all the tools are there,” it’s just a matter of consistency. Over his last seven starts, Giolito has pitched into the seventh inning four times and gone at least five innings all but once. He has a 3.20 ERA in that span with 40 strikeouts, 30 hits and 19 walks in 39 1/3 innings.

The performance would appear to have Giolito in line for a September promotion at the least.

He’d love for nothing more than to be back in the same rotation as Lopez, who made his White Sox debut on Friday. But he’s there, Giolito said he intends to stay focused on here where the everyday attention to detail has helped him improve.

“I’m definitely watching a ton of the games and keeping my eye on stat lines like Lopey’s debut,” Giolito said. “I was all over trying to watch as much as I could. I’m super happy for him. At the same time, I look forward to getting that opportunity to go up there and be with those guys.

“While that’s there, there’s still a lot of work to be done here. And I know that as far as all the stuff I’m trying to put together, it’s not perfect, it never will be perfect. But I’m doing everything I can to build up that consistency.”

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

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USA TODAY

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.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Conditioned for success: Avisail Garcia vows to work even harder in offseason after breakout campaign]

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.”