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‘Confident’ Lucas Giolito strikes out four in Cactus League debut

‘‘Good start for the year,’’ Giolito said.

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito strikes out the Rangers’ Nick Solak in the second inning Tuesday. (Daryl Van Schouwen/Sun-Times)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lucas Giolito gave up a solo home run to Ronald Guzman. Other than that, his first two innings of Cactus League play couldn’t have gone any better.

Giolito struck out four Rangers, coming back from a 3-0 count on one, and did not walk a batter. Guzman’s homer was the only hit.

The White Sox’ likely Opening Day starter, energized by having fans in the stands again — although limited in number by coronavirus restrictions — felt an adrenaline rush.

“The focus was just getting acclimated again with game speed,” Giolito said. “Being able to control my breathing, control the pace of the game, those were my main focuses. I feel like I did pretty well.”

Giolito has reached a point in his career where he is established and knows himself as a pitcher, he said.

“I know what I need to do to be successful, whereas in the past I was searching, ‘How am I going to get guys out? How am I going to navigate where I’ll end up?’ ’’ he said. “Whereas now, I have full confidence in all my pitches. The biggest thing is the focus on the preparation, so when it comes to start day, I just kind of let it happen. I felt like today was a good start, for sure, for this year.”

La Russa’s against flipping

Five half-innings were halted abruptly or “flipped” by Sox manager Tony La Russa and Rangers manager Chris Woodward, prompting boos from fans and an apology of sorts from La Russa after the game.

As part of numerous health and safety protocols, managers of the defensive team can halt an inning with less than three outs after a completed plate appearance if a pitcher has thrown more than 20 pitches. The rule is in effect through March 13.

“Unless it’s absolutely impossible, I do not intend to flip another inning the rest of the spring,” said La Russa, who will discuss bringing pitchers from minor-league camps to games as extras.

Adam’s ankle

Outfielder Adam Engel was scratched from the lineup because of mild inflammation in his right ankle.

Engel, who homered in the first inning of the Sox’ first Cactus League game Sunday against the Brewers, was replaced by prospect Luis Gonzalez. The Sox characterized the move as precautionary.

Jose, can you sing?

Jose Abreu had two hits in his first spring game, then talked about a goal he has held for some time: to sing the national anthem before a game. Abreu wants to do it with his Latin teammates, though, not solo.

“I want to show the respect to this country, this community that has welcomed us,” Abreu said. “I think that’s the right way to do it. I would like to do that before my career ends.

‘‘I don’t know when. But that’s something that is definitely on the wish list.”