When young White Sox right-handers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez spotted Class AAA Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty at the door of the visitors’ clubhouse at Comerica Park during the weekend, both of them jumped out of their seats to give a warm welcome
It was obvious both pitchers, who figure to hold down places in the Sox’ rotation next season and beyond, were appreciative of the guidance McCatty provided this summer.
“He helped me a lot this year to get to where I am now,’’ said Giolito, who’ll make his sixth start Tuesday, when he faces the Astros in Houston. “The biggest thing was helping me regain confidence in my stuff.’’
McCatty, who pitched nine seasons with the Athletics, including three under manager Billy Martin from 1980 to ’82, has some old school in him, Giolito said.
“After every inning, especially if I seemed like I wasn’t going after hitters, he’d say, ‘You have good stuff; go after these guys!’ And in sides, he was that old-school pitching coach, like, ‘It’s your stuff against theirs; challenge them.’ He really helped me build up confidence in Charlotte.’’
Giolito needed that. Lopez believed he was more than ready to open the season in the majors after showing well in spring training and, like Giolito, had big-league experience with the Nationals in 2016. In hindsight, he says the 121 innings in Charlotte were important.
“That experience I gained allowed me to be here as a better, mature pitcher,’’ Lopez said. “I have a better understanding of the things you need to be successful.’’
Lopez is 2-3 with a 4.84 ERA in six starts with the Sox since saying goodbye to McCatty in August. He had one bad start, when he pitched with a sore back in Texas. Giolito is 2-2 with a 2.56 ERA.
“We tried to hone some things mechanically, just to be more consistent, make sure I was getting to the right positions,’’ Giolito said.
Giolito, Lopez and 2015 first-round draft pick Carson Fulmer are blazing a trail as the first wave of young talent shaping what the Sox believe will be championship-caliber pitching. Not far behind is 2016 second-round pick Alec Hansen, a righty who led the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2017. Hansen finished at Class AA Birmingham.
“I’ll have a lot more confidence and experience that are going to help me, and by the end of next year, that experience and confidence in my body will be where they need to be to be in the major leagues for good,’’ Hansen said.
Going into his junior year at Oklahoma, Hansen was considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, but because of command problems, he fell to the second round, where the Sox gobbled him up.
After one season in rookie ball in the Sox’ system, the organization liked how he seamlessly climbed through Class A Kannapolis, advanced Class A Winston-Salem and Birmingham.
“It definitely boosted my confidence that the organization moved me up,’’ Hansen said.
Hansen has a 93-97 mph fastball and good breaking ball, and his confidence is growing in his changeup, which he knows will be a needed third pitch as a major-league starter.
“At times, I have better command of it than I do any other offspeed pitch,’’ he said. “It’s become as good a pitch as my breaking ball.’’
The Sox would like nothing more than to see Hansen in a major-league uniform, talking about what he learned and how he got there.
“All the work we’ve put in, and we’ve each had our individual struggles throughout the season, especially at Triple-A,’’ Giolito said of himself, Lopez and Fulmer, who has made two consecutive strong starts. “Now we’re here and want to prove ourselves at this level and show guys we belong. We’re doing a good job. I’m proud of those guys, the way we’ve been competing, as well.’’
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