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Carson Fulmer is not yet official, but Rick Renteria put him on the “pretty official” side of the unofficial spectrum by saying a rotation that includes Fulmer in the fifth spot “sounds right.”
Renteria also said the Sox will break camp with 13 pitchers, which is never fun because it’s both inefficient and a hard habit for a manager to break. It’s bad news for somebody like Ryan Cordell, but good news for:
- Fulmer: And other starters, but if this takes stress off guys who aren’t a great bet to go deep into games, he might benefit more than most.
- At least one fringe pitcher: Everybody on this list is back on the pitching schedule, including Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.
- Nate Jones: After missing almost all of 2017, Renteria should be able to ease Jones back into the grind of the regular season.
The hope is that starters like Lucas Giolito, James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez can string together quality-length starts to cover for Fulmer and Reynaldo Lopez, who has his own in-start durability questions to answer. To his credit, Lopez pitched a decent five frames against San Diego on Wednesday, at least after overcoming three first-inning walks.
Counteracting the time spent on Fulmer, let’s talk about Giolito, who is the most ready of the starters. He’s had a fantastic spring, allowing just 15 baserunners (11 hits, four walks) while striking out 17 over 17⅔ innings. After an easy jog against the Rangers on Tuesday, he’s basically ready to go for the season.
Giolito found ways to be effective last year despite a lack of a dynamic breaking ball, but James Fegan relays that Giolito feels he’s restored his curveball. On top of that, the slider has come along as more than a strike-grabber:
“Slider is a pitch I can throw in there for a strike behind in the count, early in the count,” Giolito said. “I’ve actually developed a feel for a, I wouldn’t necessarily say wipeout, but a strong slider that I will throw with two strikes, especially to righties, that’s working pretty well for me. The comfort level for that pitch has just gone up and up over the last year and a half.”
On top of two breaking balls, Keith Law says Giolito might have two changeups.
Law has always held Giolito’s stock, even during the slip at the end of his Washington days. With a full year’s separation from a Nationals organization that altered his delivery, Law has picked Giolito to be one of the breakout candidates of 2018:
The White Sox have helped Giolito restore his old delivery, rediscover the tight spin on the plus curveball he had as an amateur and even add a second “two-seam” changeup to his pitch mix, which already included a slider and straight change. He’s throwing harder this spring, again commensurate with what he was doing as an amateur and in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. I do worry he’ll be a little homer-prone between his four-seamer, which is still fairly straight, and the White Sox’s homer-friendly park, but I am optimistic we’ll see an above-average line from Giolito this season with a huge strikeout total.
It’s hard to tell how much of this is a product of preseason optimism, because new pitches are a kind of spring training trope. The difference here is that Giolito is putting forth the kind of stuff he’d shown in the past, which makes it a little more bankable.
Shields may steal the Opening Day glory this time around, but if Renteria’s rotation holds through the first turn, Giolito will get the home opener. That’s a better arrangement for everybody this year, especially if Giolito can show three or four pitches.