Right-hander Lucas Giolito wants to be for White Sox rookie Dylan Cease what veteran James Shields was for him.
When Giolito was struggling through his first two seasons in the majors, he would turn to Shields for guidance. From questions about mechanics to advice on how to handle certain situations, Shields was there for Giolito.
Though the roles are reversed, Giolito has a similar relationship with Cease.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to impart whatever wisdom and experience I have from my short time at this level,” Giolito said.
And Cease welcomes the advice — especially from a guy like Giolito, who pulled off one of the best turnarounds in the majors over the last two seasons.
Cease has stumbled his way through his first major-league season. In 12 starts, he’s 3-7 with a 6.53 ERA in 62 innings.
Cease, who is scheduled to start Saturday against the Mariners in Seattle, has struggled to find consistency with his command. Take his last two outings as examples.
After Cease had one of the best outings of his young career — he struck out a career-high 11 batters in 6⅔ innings on Sept. 3 — the 23-year-old walked five batters and was pulled after only 3⅓ innings Sept. 8.
Despite the early struggles, Giolito believes Cease is already far ahead of where he was one year ago, which begs the question: Can Cease make the same leap Giolito did next season?
“Absolutely,” Giolito said. “He has the ability to be a No. 1 guy. It’s just a matter of getting that experience and putting it all together.”
Cease is cautiously optimistic he can become a No. 1 pitcher.
“It’s hard to predict results, but I feel like I’ve made a ton of progress this year and I’ve learned so much,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to be that much better the next season.”
Cease is an unfinished product, but the abilities are there.
“The talent’s unbelievable, some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen,” Giolito said.
Giolito also has been impressed by Cease’s poise on the mound.
“It’s kind of [Corey] Kluber-like,” Giolito said. “You’ll never know what he’s thinking or what’s going on despite everything that’s happening.
“Big thing with him is what I struggled with last year — turning the brain off. When you don’t feel right physically, mechanically we search for that feel. ‘What am I doing wrong, what adjustment do I need to make?’ When you go down that rabbit hole it can get hairy because you’re thinking, ‘This adjustment didn’t work. Oh, I need to do this.’ ”
Meditation has helped Cease combat the mental side of the game. Every morning for 20 minutes, he relaxes his mind and works on breathing exercises. And on game days, he visualizes how he wants the game to unfold.
“It’s not anything that’s too intense or mind-numbing,” Cease said. “It’s more just getting into the mind to compete.”
Cease might not be having the season he envisioned, but he’s chalking up his mistakes as learning experiences.
“[I’m] not being too result-oriented,” Cease said. “There’s no point in getting out there and giving up or getting frustrated, I just have to keep doing it until I figure out how to do it to the best of my ability.”