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Lucas Giolito set for first spring outing

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s not exactly a delivery overhaul, but right-hander Lucas Giolito’s altered arm swing is noticeable, and it has produced nice results during side sessions and live batting practice this spring.

Giolito will put it to the test in a game for the first time Thursday when the Sox play the Mariners in Cactus League action at Peoria Sports Complex.

Manager Rick Renteria said Giolito, who was good during short stretches over 32 starts but struggled to maintain consistency while recording an American League high 90 walks and a 6.13 ERA, has looked better with “both the command and the life to his pitches.”

“The breaking ball seems to be commanded a little better, it has a nice bite,” Renteria said. “The fastball, he stayed behind the ball a little bit more, with more consistency. Gives it some rise, some life as they say. And he’s hitting his spots a little bit more. Hopefully that translates and he’s able to manage that.”

Lucas Giolito works during a bullpen session as pitching coach Don Cooper looks on. (Photo by Daryl Van Schouwen)

Giolito said he kind of stumbled upon a shorter arm swing working with weighted balls during the offseason.

“It feels super natural,” Giolito said. “It feels really good.”

There is also an added element of deception with the new look.

“There is,” Renteria said. “He’s a big [6-6] man. Once he gives you his back, his arms, instead of having that lateral arm swing that hitters will follow, he puts it behind him, it’s very tough to pick up. So on top of the deception that’s created because the hand comes out a little late and his direct line to the plate he’s able to actually hide it a little longer and there is a sense that the ball is on top of you. But actually he’s finishing with the hand behind the ball a little better which is creating that life.”

Lucas Giolito pitches against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2018 in Houston. (Getty Images)

Giolito, 24, was one of three AL pitchers 24 or younger to make 32 starts and pitch 170 innings along with teammate Reynaldo Lopez and Luis Severino of the Yankees. His ERA was the third highest in Sox history with qualifying starters behind Jaime Navarro, 6.36 in 1998, and Pat Caraway, 6.22 in 1931.

Also slated to pitch for the Sox Thursday: Alex Colome, Jordan Stephens, Jace Fry, Chris Thompson and Evan Marshall.

Recently acquired right-hander Ervin Santana and reliever Kelvin Herrera were scheduled to throw a simulated game on the back fields.

Ivan Nova is scheduled to start Friday against the Rangers in Surprise and Carlos Rodon is slated to face the Rockies Saturday in Glendale.