Keynan Middleton raising his stock for White Sox — and smelling great while doing it

Plenty of players wear jewelry in games, abiding by the principle of “look good, play good.” Middleton’s approach expands that idea to smelling good, too.

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Seby Zavala and Keynan Middleton celebrate after the White Sox’ 4-1 win against the Red Sox on Sunday.

Seby Zavala and Keynan Middleton celebrate after the White Sox’ 4-1 win against the Red Sox on Sunday.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Given license to use his changeup more than ever before, White Sox reliever Keynan Middleton has racked up strikeouts and ground balls at career-best rates.

With a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings after picking up the save in the White Sox’ 4-1 victory Sunday against the Red Sox, the 29-year-old right-hander has emerged from a non-roster invite in the spring to a valuable setup man and possibly a trade target for rival teams at the deadline.

He’s also smelling great.

“Pretty much all I collect is cologne and shoes,” Middleton said.

Whereas Liam Hendriks’ slide-out drawer at his locker is typically dedicated to his latest LEGO construction, Middleton’s is filled with easily over a dozen different colognes. Plenty of players wear jewelry in games, abiding by the principle of “look good, play good.” Middleton’s approach expands that idea to smelling good, too.

On the initial recommendation of teammate Mike Clevinger, Middleton has become especially fond of the Bond No. 9 brand for wearing in games. He visited the store in New York and got some free samples. Different varieties of the brand now represent the plurality of his dizzying collection.

“It’s pretty much all I wear now,” Middleton said. “The rest of them are for everybody else.”

Middleton has emerged as a bit of a clubhouse olfactory consultant. The wave of hugs and high-fives that mark every pregame routine prompt a lot of questions about what Middleton is wearing.

When Lucas Giolito got cologne as a gift recently, he checked with Middleton for his thoughts. When the clubhouse chef noticed Middleton’s scent in the food room, the reliever provided him with the source of it. When Romy Gonzalez made a slick defensive play last month to get Middleton out of a late-inning jam, he showed his appreciation with — what else — some cologne.

Baseball players are far too beholden to their routine to question something that’s working and smelling as good as Middleton. However, this obsession extends well beyond the clubhouse.

“At my house, my wife is sick of it,” he said. “My whole dresser is full of it, and she just has this little tiny corner.”

Cease in the lab

He would like fewer walks and more innings, but Dylan Cease has a 2.38 ERA through four starts in June, striking out 32 in 2223 frames. After a great Opening Day outing, Cease has been in a seasonlong battle to keep his front shoulder closed in his delivery.

While Cease was praised for being an intuitive student by Sox coaches during his time in the minors, pitching coach Ethan Katz said they’ve had to dive into biomechanical data to get the 27-year-old right-hander back to normal.

“We’ve had to change some stuff, we’ve had to add some stuff to try to work on it, and it’s really taken the last four or five games to kind of get everything right,” Katz said. “There’s a lot to it that we’ve kind of learned more about through our biomechanics and seeing when he does open up.

“It’s something that he has to stay on top of and we have to stay on top of.”

This and that

Hendriks (right elbow inflammation) and Clevinger (right biceps inflammation) are not expected back before the All-Star break, according to manager Pedro Grifol. Clevinger played catch Sunday and could begin ramping up soon, but him being fully stretched out before the break is very unlikely.

• After two games at second base to put less throwing stress on his sore right shoulder, Tim Anderson sat Sunday. Grifol expects the next time Anderson plays to be at shortstop, and that could be Monday in Anaheim.

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