‘Atrocious’ is Lucas Giolito’s own word for 2017 performance
INDIANAPOLIS — It’s just Class AAA ball, but the Charlotte Knights lately seem like a bigger deal than that. That’s because it’s hard to turn around without bumping into a White Sox prospect who’s so close to The Show, it’s almost like he could reach out and touch it.
Second baseman Yoan Moncada, the top-ranked prospect in baseball, is all the rage. Starting pitcher Carson Fulmer and closer Zack Burdi, the Sox’ first-round draft picks in 2015 and 2016, respectively, have put themselves in excellent positions. So has starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, who was acquired in December in the Adam Eaton trade with the Nationals.
But then there’s starting pitcher Lucas Giolito.
Speaking of the Eaton trade, right? Giolito, a first-round pick in 2012, a towering right-hander who knows a thing or two about wearing a ‘‘can’t-miss’’ label, was supposed to be the best part of that deal for the Sox. He had touched 100 mph and been likened, fairly or not, to Stephen Strasburg.
He’s still only 22 and less than five years removed from Tommy John surgery. A giant opportunity still sits in front of him. But right now he can’t reach out and touch it. Giolito is off to a dismal start — 0-5 with a 7.31 ERA in six starts.
‘‘The numbers are atrocious,’’ he said matter-of-factly after another forgettable outing Monday. ‘‘It frustrated me, definitely — a lot — earlier in the year. It’s like, why aren’t I figuring it out? All I can do is just trust the work I’m putting in and hopefully put it together soon.’’
Poor fastball command has been a primary culprit. Giolito’s velocity isn’t fully there, either. The mental part of the game has been a problem at times for him, too. He was outstanding last season in seven starts with the Nationals’ Class AAA club before being called up in late June. The brief big-league stint didn’t go well.
‘‘When you’re not ready to go to the big leagues and you go there and success isn’t easy for you, it can weigh on you mentally, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself,’’ said Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, who was the Nationals’ pitching coach from 2009 to 2015.
Giolito’s spring-training performance with the Sox wasn’t exactly encouraging. Lately, he has found himself thinking back to his sophomore year of high school, when he suddenly figured out where the ball was going and his star began to rise.
‘‘I’ll hopefully have that one game where it clicks,’’ he said, ‘‘and it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m back. I’m good to go.’ ’’
Things are looking considerably brighter for Fulmer and Burdi.
Fulmer, 23, is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He struggled in eight relief appearances with the Sox last season — his only taste of the big leagues — but has responded well since. Besides, this guy is a starter.
‘‘Obviously, you have to trust the process and respect decisions that are made,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’m ready, man.’’
Burdi, a native of Downers Grove, is shaping up nicely as a potential closer of the future. Will the Sox trade current closer David Robertson this season? Might Burdi, who has a 1.03 WHIP and a 19-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, be pulled into the mix regardless? He’s trying not to think about it.
‘‘That type of stuff will consume you,’’ Burdi said.
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