GLENDALE, Ariz. — Now that White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito says he’s less concerned about velocity, he’s throwing harder.
‘‘It doesn’t mean too much to me right now,’’ Giolito said Tuesday. ‘‘The ball is coming out of my hand pretty good. All said and done, commanding the baseball is a lot more important, especially for the type of starting pitcher I am.’’’
While manager Rick Renteria hasn’t said how he plans to line up his rotation when the Sox break camp, indications are veteran right-hander James Shields will face the Royals on opening day March 29 at Kauffman Stadium. Off his showing with the Sox late last season, his poise and his transition from prospect to big-league pitcher, Giolito is emerging as a favorite to fall in at No. 2.
Giolito is figuring out how to pitch, no matter what he brings to the mound velocity-wise, although the 95 mph he touched in his first Cactus League game is more than enough.
‘‘I’m throwing a lot of different pitches, a bunch of different sequences,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘I care more about the action of my fastball than the speed, the way it carries through the zone. The velocity takes care of itself.’’
After starting last season at Class AAA Charlotte, Giolito learned how to work effectively at 92 and 93 mph, a few ticks below the standard he had set as a top prospect with the Nationals. He had a 2.38 ERA in seven starts for the Sox in August and September.
Giolito’s confidence grew as he discovered that changing hitters’ eye levels made his fastball more effective. And to think he was tying himself in knots last spring, wondering where his velocity had gone. It was a few months after the Sox traded outfielder Adam Eaton for him and fellow right-handers Dane Dunning and Reynaldo Lopez, and he wanted to make a good first impression with his new team.
‘‘I was worried about how hard I was throwing it, I wasn’t feeling confident and I was asking, ‘Why am I not throwing as hard as I usually do?’ ’’ Giolito said. ‘‘And then during the course of the season, especially in Triple-A, I worried less and less about what kind of stuff I was bringing and worried more about how much I was competing.’’
In a ‘‘B’’ game Monday against the Dodgers, Giolito struck out three in three scoreless innings and got swinging strikeouts with his fastball and curve. It was better than his Cactus League start last week against the Rangers, in which he allowed two runs (one earned), two hits and a walk. He touched 95 mph on the scoreboard gun in that one.
Renteria didn’t check radar readings, but he said his eyes told him Giolito’s velocity was up.
‘‘It just looks like he’s very consistent in his delivery,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He has the freedom to repeat his delivery and finish well.’’
Giolito said a chat with Sox pitching coach Don Cooper last spring set him on the right course. And working with Class AAA pitching coach Steve McCatty reinforced what Cooper got across to him.
‘‘That’s why I like Coop,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘It’s all about honesty and straight shooting. We had a long talk about confidence and trusting what you have, not trying to find more when there isn’t really much there. Just letting things happen as opposed to forcing things.
‘‘I took that to heart last spring training. And working in Charlotte with ‘Cat,’ he kept just reinforcing that every day, kept banging on my head until it finally got through. That’s when I started to have success and was able to go up to Chicago and do pretty well.’’
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Here’s what Giolito had to say about his outing against the Dodgers: