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Opening Day start ‘would mean a lot’ to White Sox ace Lucas Giolito

On Tuesday, Giolito had his heaviest work day of the spring, throwing from 150 feet and spinning curveballs and sliders on flat ground. He hopes to throw a bullpen by the end of this week.

“To have the opportunity to start Opening Day, to kick off the year ... that would mean a lot to me,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Especially doing it in Chicago in front of the home crowd.”
“To have the opportunity to start Opening Day, to kick off the year ... that would mean a lot to me,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Especially doing it in Chicago in front of the home crowd.”
John Sleezer/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox manager Rick Renteria all but named Lucas Giolito his Opening Day starter Wednesday without officially doing so. As you might expect, Giolito is more than willing to face the Royals at home on March 26.

Giolito, who earned the honor with an All-Star season and finishing sixth in American League Cy Young voting, already has been thinking about it.

“To have the opportunity to start Opening Day, to kick off the year — I was thinking about that last night — that would mean a lot to me,” Giolito said Wednesday. “Especially doing it in Chicago in front of the home crowd.”

“You want the scoop?” Renteria said when asked if Giolito is getting the ball on Day 1. “We won’t lay out a scoop yet, but I’m glad he wants to be the Opening Day starter. . . . He’s definitely earned the opportunity to have the Opening Day start.”

But first, Giolito needs to get back on the mound. He came to camp with a mild chest muscle strain in the ribcage area and is behind everyone else. The injury, he said, resulted from having his offseason throwing routine halted by the flu around the time of SoxFest in late January. When he recovered, he ramped up the throwing too quickly and sustained the injury.

There are no concerns that he’ll be ready for the opener.

“I’m feeling 100 percent,” he said.

On Tuesday, Giolito had his heaviest work day of the spring, throwing from 150 feet and spinning curveballs and sliders on flat ground. He hopes to throw a bullpen by the end of this week.

“This little ‘whatever’ injury flareup does not affect my schedule as far as the regular season,” he said. “It just shifts my spring back a touch.”

A year ago, Giolito was bringing a new arm swing to camp, a change that would result in a remarkable comeback season. He went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA, 228 strikeouts and 57 walks over 176⅔ innings after a 2018 season when he went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA in 173⅓ innings while leading the league in earned runs (118) and walks (90).

“This offseason’s been great because I didn’t have to do a complete overhaul, I just got to continue to work on the little things,” he said.

Catcher James McCann doesn’t believe Giolito has peaked. His word of advice is not to get caught up looking at the numbers on the back of his baseball card.

“My focus for him is, we don’t need to match or beat the same number of strikeouts, beat the ERA or whatever peripheral you want to talk about,” McCann said. “It’s a matter of continuing the process. If you continue the process, the numbers will be there at the end of the season.

“But if you’re constantly chasing ‘last year was a great year, I have to have X amount of strikeouts or wins or ERA,’ you’re going to run into issues.

“I think he’ll continue to grow. You can always grow in this game. The biggest trap for any player is to try and match numbers from the previous year.”

Some Opening Day numbers would be fresh, though. And Giolito would love to post some of those.

“It will be my third Opening Day,” he said. “The last two have been in Kansas City, and it’s been kind of taking it all in, sitting on the bench.”

This one figures to place him front and center as the starting pitcher.

“Hopefully,” he said. “We’ll see. I’m excited.”