White Sox’ Lucas Giolito embraces leadership roles on and off the field

In a 24 hour span, Lucas Giolito expressed a strong desire to lead the White Sox pitching staff, calmed concerns about 2 key players missing from camp and demonstrated bona fide community leadership.

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Lucas Giolito of the White Sox throws in the bullpen during the first season workout at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 03, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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In a span of 24 hours, right-hander Lucas Giolito raised his hand high to volunteer for the role of leader of the pitching staff, offered varied levels of assurances about two huge talents absent from White Sox camp and demonstrated some bona fide community leadership.

And on third baseman Yoan Moncada, believed to be one of two Sox players missing after testing positive for the coronavirus (both are asymptomatic), Giolito offered some encouragement on a conference call following his simulated game Wednesday: “Obviously, Moncada will be back soon. He’s a huge part of this team. He’s not going anywhere. I’m not too worried about it. This is a weird time for everybody. There’s going to be some bumps in the road and we’ll get past them.”

On right-hander Michael Kopech, who isn’t in camp because of a personal matter (and not health-related, general manager Rick Hahn said): “Michael will be a big part of this going forward. Obviously, he has some things he has to take care of, and that’s for him to deal with, that’s his private life. It is what it is.”

While manager Rick Renteria was reluctant to name his Opening Day starter, Giolito, the expected and deserving choice after his breakout All-Star season, made it clear he wants to lead the Sox’ staff well beyond the first pitch of an abbreviated season, which begins July 24 against the Twins.

“I absolutely want that,” Giolito said. “The way I look at it, being the ace of the staff, you are setting an example not just with what you are doing on the field but also taking a more vocal role, which I feel like I’m trying to get the feel for. And yeah, that’s pretty much what I want. I want to be that leader of the pitching staff, taking the ball in the first game, kind of setting the tone. But at the same time, I want to maintain that thought that I’m not the only ace on the team. I’ve got four more right behind me.”

Giolito also talked about a project he’s involved in that can make a difference in the community, a venture with former Bears linebacker Sam Acho and current Chicago athletes Mitch Trubisky, Jonathan Toews, Jason Heyward and Diamond DeShields. The group purchased a liquor store in South Austin, demolished it and will build a needed grocery store there.

“It’s an area that has a lot of liquor stores and food marts selling unhealthy options,” Giolito said. “And it lacks grocery stores, fresh food. So this is like the model going forward we can apply to a lot of communities around Chicago and even expand across the United States, where we buy a liquor store — this one was next to a big beautiful community center — and we put a fresh food market there, hire people in the local area, and it’s a self-sustaining thing. Building up the community, giving the people there an opportunity for success.

Talking to kids from the area, Giolito said he heard about “different people’s backgrounds, how they’re coming up through life. And me being in the position I am, I want to help facilitate growth in our youth and push that needle forward.”

With each passing day, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Giolito demonstrates maturity, thoughtfulness and character. “Civic treasure” might be a stretch, but in the sporting realm, Giolito is trending that way. He also happened to be one of the best pitchers in the American League in 2019.

On Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, the sixth day of Sox camp, Giolito pitched three innings in a simulated game. The second inning included a pair of consecutive walks, but overall he was fine. He struck out four, including Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Tim Anderson.

In 15 days, he’ll be ready forOpening Day.

“I know what I need to do,” he said.

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