Of all the core pieces the White Sox acquired in their three big rebuild trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana, right-hander Dane Dunning was the last to make his major-league debut.
A three-run home run took the shine off an otherwise excellent first outing, but it was worth the wait.
Facing the Tigers on Wednesday in a matchup against prized Tigers pitching prospect Casey Mize, Dunning commanded a low-90s fastball and sharp curveball — using a grip given to him by former Sox righty James Shields — to the tune of seven strikeouts and no runs allowed with no walks and three hits over his first four innings. Despite giving up a homer to Jeimer Candelario that barely cleared the wall in the fifth, it was a good night.
“It was a really nice debut for Dane,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He went through the first three innings very flawlessly, worked a little heavier in the fourth. But he seemed to have some tremendous composure, and his stuff looked really good. He gave up a few runs in the fifth, but we’re excited. He looked good, kept us in the ballgame.”
With rookie Matt Foster (unscored on in eight appearances), Steve Cishek, Evan Marshall and closer Alex Colome following Dunning with 4⅔ innings of scoreless relief, and with Jose Abreu breaking a 3-3 tie in the eighth against left-hander Gregory Soto with an opposite-field homer and Edwin Encarnacion belting his second homer of the night moments later, Dunning’s first outing was enough to help the Sox (14-11) to a 5-3 win, their fourth in a row.
“I felt really good throughout the entire outing,” Dunning said. “More or less, later on I felt like I was getting a little tired. I was missing spots a little bit more. I was just trying to attack the zone and help our team get a victory.”
Tiring a bit in his first start since having Tommy John surgery in March 2019, Dunning watched Candelario’s three-run homer with one out in the fifth barely elude a leaping-catch attempt by center fielder Adam Engel.
“Just kind of left the slider up, and he put a barrel on it,” Dunning said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Against Mize, a No. 1 draft pick in 2017 and the eighth-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, Encarnacion homered in the second inning and Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada had consecutive RBI singles in the fifth.
Encarnacion was hitting .154/.228/.288 with two homers coming in.
“I know I’ve been struggling at the beginning,” Encarnacion said. “I don’t worry about that. I have my confidence, and I know what I got.”
Sox catcher Zack Collins, making his first start behind the plate, had caught Dunning before and was confident it was “going to be pretty exciting to watch a guy’s dreams come true right there in front of me like that.’’
“Dane has a lot of electric stuff,” Collins said. “When he’s throwing stuff, he’s lights-out.”
Spotting his fastball and getting swings and misses with his curve, Dunning was equal to the more highly touted Mize, getting 17 swinging strikes, throwing 44 of 73 pitches for strikes and finishing with one walk and five hits allowed. He also alertly gloved two line drives aimed at his head.
Is he top-of-the-rotation potential, as general manager Rick Hahn said when he made the trade almost four years ago? That remains to be seen. But on this night, Dunning looked the part of a rotation piece, period, although Renteria wasn’t ready to anoint him with a regular spot. Reynaldo Lopez — who came with Dunning and Lucas Giolito in the Eaton trade with the Nationals — is possibly returning soon, and there are days off coming up in the schedule.
“Right now, that’s yet to be determined,” Renteria said. “He’s done enough, though, to certainly impress all of us.”