KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Right-hander Lucas Giolito knows he has been given a longer leash than other pitchers would’ve been afforded after his 6.13 ERA with a major-league-worst 4.67 walks per nine innings last season. He followed that with a spring stat line full of hits and walks.
A No. 16 overall pick by the Nationals and a key piece in the Adam Eaton trade that also netted starter Reynaldo Lopez and highly rated prospect Dane Dunning, Giolito will get the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to prove he can be part of the Sox’ future.
“Yeah,” Giolito said. “Getting the opportunities I’ve gotten has been huge for me. The organization, coaching staff, teammates sticking with me when I was putting up not great numbers, having some starts when I’m not giving the team a chance to win at all, just having the clubhouse behind me, all these people behind me in my corner wanting to see me be successful, it just helps.’’
Giolito’s ERA was the third-highest in Sox history among qualifying pitchers behind Jaime Navarro (6.36 in 1998) and Pat Caraway (6.22 in 1931). As manager Rick Renteria said, the leash does not extend forever.
It’s time to turn a corner.
“At some point, you’ve got to transition from all that into more of a performance-based, outcome-based year,” Renteria said.
Giolito, first in wins with 10 and second on the Sox with 173 innings last season, will try to help the Sox avoid a season-opening three-game sweep against the Royals. He’s 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA in six career starts against Kansas City, which is why he was slotted ahead of Ivan Nova in the rotation. Nova will face the Indians on Monday in Cleveland.
Engel takes role in stride
Adam Engel, who played 128 games in center field last season, doesn’t know how much he’ll be playing with Leury Garcia, who started the first two games, appearing to be Renteria’s first choice in center.
“I’m not sure,” Engel said. “Just trying to stay ready. When it’s my time to get on the field, I’ll be ready.’’
With a slash line of .235/.279/.336 last season, Engel’s best asset is defense. But he can use what he knows from hitting to be a good teammate when he’s on the bench, he said. He shared with rookie Eloy Jimenez what he knows about Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, the Royals’ first two starters.
“On days when you’re not in the lineup, you look for other ways to contribute,’’ Engel said.
If Yoan Moncada swings earlier in counts, he is a virtual sure bet to avoid repeating another big strikeout year. Moncada struck out 217 times last year, 85 on called third strikes.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive on all the pitches,” said Moncada, who is 4-for-8 with no strikeouts in nine plate appearances. “I want to keep my approach, but at the same time, I know that I can keep my approach being aggressive from the first pitch.”
This and that
Giolito, Jimenez and Dylan Covey visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City during the Sox’ day off Friday.
† Lopez snapped a streak of six starts of at least six innings dating to Aug. 29.