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Thyago Vieira worth watching in White Sox camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins didn’t know whom he was facing when he stepped in against Thyago Vieira during the 2017 All-Star Futures Game in Miami, but he knows now.

“I was pretty excited to get in that game, and I got in for the sixth inning,’’ said Collins, the Sox’ first-round draft pick in 2016. “Unfortunately, I faced him. He blew three fastballs by me at, like, 100, 101 and 102. It wasn’t a fun at-bat for me, but I’m glad he’s on our side now.’’

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The Sox traded $500,000 in international slot money to the Mariners for the 6-2 right-hander from Brazil in November. Vieira’s big arm — his fastball sits in the 97 to 100 mph range but has touched 103 — puts him in the conversation for making the opening-day roster.

Thyago Vieira throws during a bullpen session at White Sox spring training. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

“I believe it because nothing is impossible,’’ Vieira said.

Not with that kind of arm. But command will answer the question.

“Fastball command is going to be the biggest key as opposed to how his secondary pitches are working,’’ manager Rick Renteria said Monday. “We’ve got to make sure there’s strike one consistently, locate that fastball.’’

Vieira, 24, made one entertaining appearance Aug. 14 for the Mariners, pitching a scoreless inning against the Orioles, but not before throwing his final warmup pitch low and about five feet wide of catcher Mike Zunino. Chris Davis lined his first pitch at his head, but Vieira caught it in self-defense. Unfazed, he retired the next two hitters on a groundout and inning-ending strikeout.

The next day, Vieira was sent back to Class AAA Tacoma.

“He’ll be back,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said at the time. “There’s no doubt.”

Turns out Vieira, who combined to go 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves, 46 strikeouts and 22 walks in 54 innings between Class AA Arkansas and Tacoma last season, was not.

Vieira possesses a slider or power curve — it depends on who’s identifying exactly what it is — but said he worked this winter on another “surprise” secondary pitch that he’s hesitant to reveal.

“Not right now,’’ he said. “Everybody is going to see it.

“I’ve been working hard with a new pitch during the offseason, and this is going to help a lot. I’m working hard on my slider, too. I put in another pitch, but I’m saving it for the game right now.

“I want to mix my pitches. Everybody knows I throw hard, so I don’t just want to rely on my fastball.’’

Vieira was surprised by the trade but believes a new opportunity might open the door to realizing “my dream.” He’s settling in well in his new surroundings after being in the Mariners’ system since 2010, when they signed him for $65,000.

“He’s a confident kid,’’ Renteria said. “He’s feeling comfortable in camp and getting along with everybody. For all these guys, you want them to feel comfortable in their own skin and surroundings. Hopefully, they get some freedom to be free of emotion and tension and focus on what they need to do.’’

NOTES: Rick Renteria said his message to the team before the first full-squad workout Monday was similar to his first one: “[I told them to] continue to do what we’ve started to do on this journey. Stay focused, prepare well, hustle. Do everything you can to continue the path that we’re on. I think they’re all on board, and they’re as excited as we are, the prospects and the possibilities of everything as they continue to grow together as a team.’’

† Leury Garcia might be the best all-around center fielder in camp, but Renteria’s preference is to use him as a super-utility type.

“We’re going to give him an opportunity to be moved around a lot and keep him as valuable as we possibly can at any position we have,’’ Renteria said.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.
Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com