Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito wants to bring new era of winning to South Side

Giolito is ready and set to make his second consecutive Opening Day start.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — And so it begins, a 2021 White Sox season with real reasons for high hopes.

It has been a while. And in Year 5 of a rebuild that began with a trade involving Lucas Giolito, it seems fitting that the 6-6 right-hander is the one taking the ball on Opening Day against the Angels on Thursday (9:05 p.m., NBCSCH+, ESPN-1000).

“I love this organization, I don’t want to play anywhere else and I’m looking forward to hopefully having a really, really good season this year,” Giolito said Wednesday.

The Sox have oozed love and confidence throughout the spring, and the feeling now is that everything is coming together, that their time is now.

“I can sense that a little bit,” Giolito said. “A lot of us younger guys really coming into our own. We’ve made some big strides, especially over the last couple of years. For us, kind of culminating that era and moving into a new era of hopefully a lot of winning on the South Side.”

This will be Giolito’s second consecutive Opening Day start, and he vividly remembers the first one not going well. He allowed a home run to Max Kepler on his first pitch and gave up seven runs and six hits in 3⅔ innings July 24. The Sox lost 10-5.

Giolito enters this one coming off an excellent six starts in the spring and with a better plan for this opener.

“My first Opening Day didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to, but I learned a lot from that, and I’m looking forward to making the adjustments going into [Thursday],” Giolito said. “Really focusing one pitch at a time. I’ve got my preparation all down. Very excited.”

The deception created with his arm action is one of Giolito’s strengths, and it’s part of what makes his changeup better. How he adjusted after that opener speaks volumes about the pitcher he has become.

“The biggest thing, if you take his outing Opening Day last year against Minnesota, was his hand separation got a little bit away from him, so he was exposing himself a little bit more than he normally has,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said. “Was that the reason for a tougher Opening Day last year? Possibly. He made that adjustment, and his deception was back.”

Giolito no-hit the Pirates on Aug. 25 and was seventh in American League Cy Young voting. He’ll be the first righty to make consecutive Opening Day starts for the Sox since Jaime Navarro in 1997 and ’98.

“It’s all about setting the tone,” Giolito said. “We get to go offense first, so I’m looking forward to seeing our guys go out there, start the season with some nice [at-bats]. But then from a defensive side, I get to take the ball, I get to be in control from the get-go and I want to start the season off the way we want.”

NOTES: Manager Tony La Russa said Leury Garcia will start in left field and Zack Collins will be the designated hitter Thursday against the Angels and right-hander Dylan Bundy. Rookie Andrew Vaughn will be the DH on Friday against left-hander Andrew Heaney. Garcia will bat sixth and Collins eighth.

† A graduate of Harvard-Westlake High School, located about 50 miles from Angel Stadium, Giolito got 10 tickets for family and friends. Giolito’s high school teammates Max Fried (Braves) and Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) are also starting Opening Day.

† La Russa said Sox players may get vaccinated when they return to Chicago on Wednesday night. The players won’t be pressured to get it, said La Russa, who had both doses.

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