GLENDALE, Ariz. — If all goes well with this grand project aimed at positioning the White Sox as a postseason contender for years to come, there will come a time — and soon — when the matter of which starting pitcher gets the ball on opening day is almost beside the point.
The whole idea is having a stable of arms that are worthy of such a noble task. It’s a big idea, to be sure, far easier in theory than in practice, but the Sox have been barreling in that general direction for a while now.
How far along will they be by opening day in 2019? Someone will have to be on the mound when the Sox begin their regular-season journey a little over a year from now, and Lucas Giolito wouldn’t mind one bit if it were he.
“Yeah, I think that would be awesome,” he said.
Giolito took a roundabout course to the Sox, but he arrived late last season and did not disappoint, winning three of his seven starts, pitching deep into games, and posting a 2.38 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. They were numbers not to be taken lightly.
Six years ago, the Nationals made the 6-6 right-hander a first-round draft pick. The intervening seasons have presented Giolito with myriad challenges, yet here he is — locked into a leading role as the Sox chase relevance on the horizon.
Giolito is careful not to step on James Shields’ toes as the 36-year-old — despite his massive struggles to date with the Sox — prepares to start on opening day next Thursday in Kansas City.
“He’s like a true veteran, but he’s a great veteran,” Giolito said. “He’s done a fantastic job kind of showing us young guys the ropes, the right things to do, the wrong things to do, and then kind of just being there as a veteran presence and a really good teammate overall. He’s definitely deserving of that. I think there’s no better option than him to start off the year for us, lead the way, just because he has that presence in the clubhouse, especially with us, the starting rotation. This guy’s our leader.”
It’ll be Shields’ eighth opening-day start and the Sox will be the fourth team that has given him the honor. Barring a truly surprising development, though, Shields will be out of the picture this time next year. So: Will it be Giolito?
“Yeah, possibly,” he said. “It’s not really an active goal, I guess — ‘Oh, I want to be opening-day starter’ — and I think there are more important things than that, like how many innings I want to pitch and things like that. But I think it’s a special thing. It’s definitely something I want to do at some point. It would be great.”
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