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PHOENIX – Lucas Giolito has been working out. He’s huge.
But that’s where the similarities between the White Sox ace and Kenny Bania end.
Indeed, though, Giolito caused a stir when he arrived at Camelback Ranch on Monday.
Why? Well, it probably has something to do with the 20 pounds of muscle he put on over the offseason.
“Gio looks taller,” Tony La Russa told me with a grin, and given the amount of work the right-hander put in, maybe he discovered some sort of exercise that adds height as well as weight.
But we’ll focus on the muscle for now, Giolito looking to do something to not just improve his ability as an athlete but to try and avoid the even minimal hiccups in his pursuit of 200 innings. Injured list stays of little concern have kept him south of 180 innings in the last few seasons, and he wants to make sure even little things like that don’t happen as he tries to help the White Sox to a World Series win.
“Kind of bolstered up my weightlifting routine, put on some mass,” Giolito said. “It kind of puts me in a position where, I’m already very tall, but now I have more stability, more strength. Especially with the last couple years having those minor (health issues), the hamstrings, just having that strength and stability surrounding it so that I can feel strong and at the end of the day pitch to the best of my ability and maintain health throughout the season.
“If I throw harder, that’s great. But I already like how I pitch, my repertoire. I didn’t go into the offseason like, ‘Oh, I want to go out and throw 100 (miles an hour).’ It’s just a matter of, as I progress throughout my career, getting stronger, finding the areas that need to be tightened up and tightening them up. I think a big one for me was putting on a little more mass and having that stable body.”
Ethan Katz’s newest pupil
Vince Velasquez might not be on deck for a spot in the White Sox’ starting rotation. But he’s somewhere on the “in case of emergency” depth chart.
And so while his role is expected to be little more than eating up innings as a long man in the bullpen and the occasional spot starter, he’s going to need to be better than the guy who posted a 6.30 ERA pitching with the Phillies and Padres last season.
Enter Katz, who worked pitching-coach magic on Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón last year and turned them both into exciting, reliable, dominant arms.
Now Katz is in charge of turning Velasquez into a reliable option for La Russa to turn to, something that has Velasquez excited for what comes next.
“That was definitely one of the biggest considerations coming here,” Velasquez said. “Rodón was one of those guys that came in, and Katz was right behind him and said, ‘Hey’ and patted him on the butt, ‘go out and do your thing.’ I’m one of those guys that just likes to go out and compete, and if I have that support system right behind me, I’m full dive.
“That’s one of the prime reasons I felt like Katz is one of those guys that can get me back on track.”
As White Sox fans continue to hope and pray – and yell in the GM’s face – that Rick Hahn makes a big move to send the team from World Series contenders to favorites, he’s confident in what he’s got.
That’s no explanation that he’s going to send all calls to voicemail from here on out, far from it. But a roster and a lineup that he’s been constructing since 2016 has finally reached contender status, and Hahn likes what he sees.
Asked if he believes the White Sox have the championship-caliber lineup they’ve long aimed for, Hahn said:
“At this time? At this time it can be, absolutely. It’s going to require some growth from our young guys if this is the group we go with in three weeks or three months or six months when the playoffs start. But certainly we feel good about what we are capable of doing offensively today.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t continue to look at ways to potentially get better, but yeah, we feel good about this group.”
Giolito laughed when asked to weigh in on Dylan Cease’s new mustache.
Funnier still, though, was his revelation of the clubhouse nicknames Cease has earned.
“Freddie Mercury. Luigi.”
While it didn’t seem like Giolito was ready to adopt such a look for himself, he’s all for Dylan doing Dylan.
“I don’t really care. We’ll mess around in the clubhouse as much as we want, but at the end of the day, (if) you look good, feel good, play good, whatever looks good to you. Whatever makes you feel like you’re the man out there, all right, go for it.”
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