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White Sox notes: La Russa making Giolito wait; Vaughn making strides; Grandal ready to play

Will Lucas Giolito get the ball on Opening Day? “It’s never too early to ask,” his manager said. “It could be too early to answer.”

Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox
Giolito wants the ball on Day 1.
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

And the White Sox’ Opening Day starter April 1 at the Angels will be . . .

Lucas Giolito, right?

“It’s never too early to ask,” manager Tony La Russa said Friday. “It could be too early to answer.”

If that sounds coy, it’s only because it was. It would be a big surprise if Giolito wasn’t assigned to pitch the opener for the second year in a row and the first under his new skipper.

Then again, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn are pretty good. Each has started on Opening Day before.

But this is Giolito’s baby. Doesn’t it have to be? He certainly wants it.

“Absolutely,” the right-hander said after throwing four scoreless innings against the Rangers. “I want the ball. I want to go deep. That’s what I’m all about. It would be great if I get that opportunity.”

At work and gloving it

While most of the focus during spring training has been on Andrew Vaughn’s hitting, the first-base prospect — who has the inside track on the Sox’ designated hitter job despite having no major-league experience — is making strides with his defense as well. Vaughn, 22, was drafted for his bat but looks improved with his glove compared to his first camp a year ago. His intensity on every ground ball has been plain to see on the backfields.

“Last spring I told him, ‘I would pay to watch you play— I would pay to watch you prepare,’ ” said Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, who works with infielders. “The way he goes about his routine, his day, it’s impeccable. I told him, ‘Don’t ever change.’ ”

Jose Abreu wants to play as much as he can at first base, not DH, so Vaughn might get limited time on the field. But the Sox do want to ease him in. Abreu has two years left on his contract, and Vaughn is probably their first baseman of the future.

“His focus and intensity — a ground ball in spring training is like the seventh game of the World Series for him,” McEwing said. “And when you practice like you play, then everything slows down once the game starts.”

A Grandal entrance

Catcher Yasmani Grandal, who twisted his knee Feb. 24, is set to make his Cactus League debut Saturday against the Angels and starter Shohei Ohtani. He won’t be behind the plate, though he has participated in catching drills. As a hitter, he’s ready to roll.

“He’s on time,” La Russa said, “and we’re excited. We had a couple drills the last couple of days that he was a part of, and he hit the ball as good as anybody.”

RANGERS 3, WHITE SOX 2

It’s getting weird

Wait — another “L”? Somehow, the Sox have still won only once in 12 spring games. Have we told you all about the three exciting ties?

“It’s no fun to get beat like we’ve been getting beat,” Tony La Russa said.

Someday we’ll all have a good laugh about it.

Giolito locked in

Four innings, no runs allowed, five strikeouts — same old Lucas Giolito?

No. This time, he felt completely off during pregame warmups. There were years during his career when he would’ve come unglued before even walking out to the mound. At 26, he’s a different animal.

“I was able to just flush it,” he said.

And then flush the Rangers’ hitters.

No title yet for Hendriks

New Sox closer Liam Hendriks followed Giolito with a strong inning. He kept his heater up in the zone, which is his preference.

But being referred to as “closer” isn’t his preference. Not yet, even though that’s why he’s with the team.

“ ‘Reliever,’ ” he corrected.

“I think one scoreless inning, thank you for that, but the one scoreless inning doesn’t give you anything. It’s a steppingstone, and that’s the way I’ve approached the last couple of years. I just have to make sure I get there.”

On deck

Angels at Sox, 2:05 p.m. Saturday, NBCSCGH, Shohei Ohtani vs. Jimmy Lambert.