GLENDALE, Ariz. — After compiling a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts at Class AAA Charlotte, right-hander Dylan Cease made 14 starts with the White Sox in 2019 and had a 5.79 ERA.
Those are numbers that aren’t sitting well with Cease, especially because he wants to fit into a postseason-caliber rotation, which is what the Sox aspire to assemble. The ERA is one that should fall because of Cease’s electric stuff, lessons learned, adjustments and experience.
There are no guarantees, though, but Cease, 24, is doing what he should be doing to change it, tweaking a thing or two mechanically. He’s getting down to the business of seeing how those changes fly this spring.
“The biggest thing I’ve really been working on is not getting too rotational on my front side,” he said. “That’s the main thing that’s going to be different.”
So far, so good.
“I think that’s one of the big reasons I was having cutting issues with my fastball,” he said. “So right now, I haven’t been having any of those issues.”
With half a major-league season under his belt, Cease has a new comfort level as a big-leaguer, “getting comfortable with the whole process, getting comfortable with the travel, with being up there.”
Cease came to the Sox with Eloy Jimenez in the 2017 Jose Quintana trade ranked as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. Three years later, he’s viewed as a key piece of the Sox’ young core that represents a possible better future on the South Side.
“You can tell there’s a different feel [here],” Cease said. “This is definitely the most talented team I’ve been a part of.’’
With an upper-90s fastball and big curveball, Cease’s talent has never been an issue. He made his big-league debut July 3, and in those 14 starts covering 73 innings, he averaged a shade above five innings per start and 97 pitches. He knows he needs to be more effective executing pitches to be a 200-inning guy.
“Just being efficient, not wasting pitches,” Cease said. “If you’re having 40-pitch innings, it’s hard to go more than five.”
Between Charlotte and the Sox, Cease pitched a career-high 138„ innings.
“Yeah, that’d be great [to reach 200],” Cease said. “I don’t know what my limit’s going to be, but I want to throw as many as I can.”
Innings 1 (9.00 ERA) and 2 (9.64) were the obvious stumbling blocks for Cease, who seemed to adjust as he went along, with ERAs of 3.46 in the third inning, 2.92 in the fourth and 2.25 in the fifth.
It was a mix of good and bad, but there was enough good — including an 11-strikeout performance in Cleveland on Sept. 3 and an eight-strikeout, one-run final outing in -Detroit on Sept. 20 — that he could hold on to.
“The fact that I’ve had games where I was able to do really well, had wins and all that, it just shows I can do it,” he said. “The biggest thing is just the confidence-booster.”
“He’s not far from getting himself in a position where he’s efficient and keeps himself out there for an extended period of time during a ballgame,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Great stuff. He had another year of baseball under his belt, a year in the big leagues.
“And I’m certainly extremely confident about the skills he brings to the table, and I’m extremely confident he will improve.”