Notes: Cease at his 'best'; Grandal update

March 5th, 2020

PHOENIX -- White Sox right-hander feels the best he’s ever felt on the mound.

Those were the 24-year-old’s words on Tuesday while sitting in front of his locker at Camelback Ranch. On Wednesday at American Family Fields, Ceased proved his point during a 5-1 victory over the Brewers.

Cease worked four innings, striking out five and not issuing a walk. He threw 40 of his 58 pitches for strikes and hit 98 mph with his fastball, per the left-field scoreboard speed reading.

“Yeah, that was probably the best I’ve ever commanded my fastball,” Cease said. “Really, for most of the spring, my fastball command has been good, so it’s just a continuation of the process I’m working on.

“It’s just throwing every day, feeling out your body, lifting, shoulder care -- all the little things we do. Basically, I’m not doing anything different than I was last year. It’s just I have that experience, and I’m going to continue to build on it.”

That 2019 experience covered 14 starts and a 5.79 ERA, but Cease carries himself as a more polished pitcher through the first half of Spring Training. He fanned Avisaíl García, Jedd Gyorko and Mark Mathias in the second inning Wednesday.

“I’m not lacking confidence, by any means,” Cease said. “I’m not going out there super cocky thinking it’s going to be easy, but I’m happy with where I’m at. I just feel like I have a better feel of my body. Last year, there was no part in the season where I wasn’t cutting the ball. Right now, all my stuff is staying true. Then it’s just a feel thing. I have a way better feel.”

Grandal close to big league action
caught three innings and had two at-bats during a Wednesday morning White Sox "B" game at Camelback Ranch against the Reds, testing his strained left calf muscle. Manager Rick Renteria believes Grandal will have a short catching stint against the Cubs in Mesa on Friday if his body responds well the day prior.

“He said he felt good,” said Renteria. “Obviously, he wants to get his baseball legs back underneath him and continue to progress.”

Grandal struck out in his second trip to the plate Wednesday but doubled in his first at-bat, comfortably cruising into second. The switch-hitting catcher then immediately swiped third base with nobody covering due to a defensive shift.

“You’re talking about just smart baseball play,” Renteria said. “He’s a smart baserunner, a smart baseball player. Tries to get every edge you can. Hopefully it’s something we as a team and organization can take advantage of and everybody starts kind of learning from it and continues to build.”

Giolito ready to go
There should be enough Cactus League gametime for to get ready for a March 26 Opening Day start at home against the Royals, although Giolito has not officially been named as the Day 1 starter. The right-hander was delayed due to a strained chest muscle near his right ribcage suffered at the end of January, but he’s ready to go for his first Cactus League start Friday at the Cubs.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot, especially considering last year, two offseasons ago, I had to make so many changes I was still kind of working on through Spring Training into the beginning of the season,” Giolito said. “That baseline is there, so it was all about getting feel, feeling the slope, and just getting some reps off the hill. But I’m looking forward to the game reps.”

Giolito will be focused on getting back into the speed and pacing of the game in front of Friday’s big crowd.

“I’ll probably get the adrenaline going a little bit,” Giolito said. “It will be fun.”

Farmer to miss Spring Training
Ed Farmer, who is entering his 29th full season on the White Sox radio network and his 15th as the play-by-play voice, will miss the remainder of Spring Training radio broadcasts on WGN as he continues to recuperate from health issues that arose last season. Farmer expects to return to the booth when healthy. Andy Masur will join analyst Darrin Jackson in Farmer’s absence.

Third to first
• Right-handed reliever has been sidelined by left oblique soreness. He is not scheduled to pitch this week.

“We’re going to monitor him and make sure he’s fine before we get him back out there again,” Renteria said.

• After returning to the White Sox lineup Tuesday following a bout of back stiffness, designated hitter responded fine on Wednesday. Encarnación will continue to be in and out of the lineup as he progresses, per Renteria.

He said it
“Hanging curveball. I think it was hanging, based on the way he hit it anyway. I don’t know for sure.” -- Cease, on Keston Hiura’s long home run to center that led off the fourth

Up next
Right-hander gets the start for the White Sox as they play host to the Rockies on Thursday at Camelback Ranch, with first pitch set for 2:05 p.m. CT. The contest will be streamed live via a free webcast on Relievers and also will be throwing against Colorado.