PHOENIX – He didn’t mention any names Wednesday, the first day of spring training for White Sox pitchers and catchers.
But when looking back on last season’s 100 losses and looking ahead to a promising future, manager Rick Renteria said it’s time for “different individuals to answer the bell.”
Lucas Giolito got the message.
Although he still has a spot in the Sox’s starting rotation, Giolito is well aware he has to show much more this season if he hopes to keep his job in the months and years ahead.
The 24-year-old righty led the Sox with 10 wins in 2018, but he had the highest ERA (6.13) in the major leagues and the second-highest walk total (90).
Giolito also had trouble getting out of the gate, posting a 9.29 ERA in the first two innings.
“That’s kind of what plagued me last year, those outings where within the first two innings, I’m already giving up four or five runs, kind of letting that snowball,” Giolito said. “Get rid of those, build some consistency as a starting pitcher. I know it’s tough to do it, so it’s just a matter of being confident and consistent and going out there and pitching deep in the games every time.”
In an attempt to accomplish that goal and be a dependable starter in his second full season, Giolito acted on a quote he read from LeBron James.
“A few years ago, LeBron talked about how he invests in himself before a season,” Giolito said. “Like, you’re in control of what you’re bringing to the table as an athlete, so why not do everything you can to better yourself to prepare for the season?”
Giolito is happy with the physical progress he made.
“I’m excited about the work I put in,” he said. “Just working smarter, finding some things in the gym that I was able to hammer out, so my body’s feeling right all the time.”
The other goal is getting his mind right.
“A lot of mental stuff,” Giolito said. “I did a – it’s called a neurofeedback program where basically they read your brain waves. You work to build better neural pathways. Everyone is different.
“For me, it was about focusing on breathing, being confident at all times, just things like that where I kind of put it all together on the mental side. Always have that confidence, always feel good when I’m out on the mound, compete and kind of let everything else take over.”
Giolito, who recommended the same program to top pitching prospect Dylan Cease, is eager to see if it helps.
“It’s a one and done,” he said. “You do it one time, and you’re good. So I basically marathoned 20 sessions toward the end of the offseason. I feel really good as of right now. Getting here earlier, I feel like I’m attacking the day. I’m looking forward to seeing some more of the results over the next few weeks here.”
If the neurofeedback program helps Giolito become a better pitcher, Renteria is all for it.
“They’re growing up in it, so they’re taking advantage of what’s available to them,” Renteria said. “I think every organization is doing it. I think it’s something that complements the eye. Heaven forbid technology falls apart and then all of a sudden you have to use your eyes to figure out when something is not going well.
“Thank goodness that the human element is still going to be part of baseball. But if there’s something they like using, absolutely use it. I think you have to understand how to use it so it’s not exploited in the wrong way. As long as it’s being useful productive, it’s good for all of us.”
Watching Giolito throw for the first time during spring training Thursday at rainy Camelback Ranch, Renteria liked what he saw.
“A shorter arm swing, a little more compact,” Renteria said. “A lot of strikes. A lot of strikes with both the fastball and the breaking ball. I was very happy to see what he did today.”