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Lucas Giolito reclaimed the American League lead in walks after issuing four free passes against the Indians on Monday night. They were unforced errors, in that Cleveland hitters hadn’t given him reason to shy away from pounding the zone. He issued four walks before giving up his first hit, including a pair with the bases empty and two outs in the fourth that set up the game’s decisive three-run outburst.
This is the kind of outing that could prompt a trip to Charlotte, at least theoretically. If his problems stemmed from poor execution within the strike zone against big-league hitters, then he might just have to take his lumps since it’s doubtful Triple-A hitters could send the same message about missing. But when the problems are consistent fastball life and losing the strike zone, those can be addressed at any level.
I thought the White Sox might’ve been tipping their hand when the various game accounts quoted little from Renteria’s postgame analysis besides, “He was missing his spots.” I thought that might’ve been the blunt assessment that foreshadows the end of one’s line, rope or patience.
But listening to the interview, it just happened to be the only quotable part. The rest was more of a game log of the outing.
When asked whether the Sox have considered demoting Giolito, he said, “We haven’t had any more discussions about that, not at all.” Sometimes management has to traffic in mistruths — see Rick Hahn and Super Two thresholds — so it’d surprise me if “not at all” was actually legit. However, he continued by saying that Michael Brantley’s fifth-inning homer is what cemented a bad outing, rather than one where Giolito could say he persevered.
That’s not the same sound or vibe Renteria gave before Carson Fulmer’s make-or-break moment, when he said little beyond Fulmer being on the schedule. And with Hahn challenging Michael Kopech through the media …
“Not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future. But he’s not there yet.
“There have been flashes of real progress and there have also been some steps backwards along the way. We need to see more consistency. That’s one of the things, one of the determining factors.”
… it doesn’t sound like Kopech is about to force a change from below simply because of his talent.
Going back to Fulmer, his problems followed him to Charlotte. He’s issued 15 walks to 20 strikeouts over 22 innings, and while he only walked one batter over five innings his last time out, he also gave up his first two Triple-A homers of the season. There’s still work remaining, and it’s doubtful that he’ll ever be able to clear all the obstacles that lay in front of a spot in the White Sox rotation.
It seems like we’d learn a lot about Giolito if he were sent to Charlotte in the same fashion. The longer Giolito struggles to throw strikes in the majors without any detectable progress, the more I wonder if those closest to the matter don’t want to know what they’d find out.
UPDATE: Patrick pointed out in the comments that Giolito has one option remaining, and the Sox might be loath to use it. If that’s the case, then consider Giolito a Rule 5 pick until he stops pitching like one.
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Giolito’s struggles dovetail with my column for The Athletic, which starts with a blow-by-blow account of Mat Latos’ indy-ball brawl over the weekend …
… and ends with the idea that watching overwhelmed young players try to learn is better than watching the Sox burn through washed-up veterans in a desperate attempt for adequacy.
Both the 2016 and 2018 seasons share a high body count, but the White Sox aren’t joylessly wringing the last useful moments out of a ballplayer and discarding the husk. The year’s kind of roster churn stands the chance at yielding a useful player. [Dylan] Covey wasn’t supposed to be starting now, but maybe he can hold down a rotation spot with that sinker. Daniel Palka could be too powerful to deny. Charlie Tilson…well, he’s only struck out six times over 48 plate appearances, so there’s the potential of a hit tool?
These are stretches of varying degrees, but they’re low-stakes dreams, not prayers in need of an answer.
Even though Giolito’s struggles have a certain sameness to them, it’s not out of the question it can click. For the time being, though, I’m pinning my hopes on Kopech posting a couple starts that Hahn can’t pick apart so easily.