Cease passes on World Baseball Classic -- and here's why

Following Cy-caliber '22, White Sox right-hander's primary focus on preparing for '23

January 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- would be a coveted addition to any 2023 World Baseball Classic roster.

The 27-year-old White Sox right-hander fanned 453 over 349 2/3 innings covering the last two seasons, posting a 2.20 ERA during the 2022 campaign and finishing second in the American League Cy Young voting. He was on the 50-man WBC interest list for Team USA and Team Israel, with Jewish heritage in his lineage, but in a Tuesday evening Zoom conference, Cease explained why he passed on this special opportunity.

“Yeah, I decided not to,” Cease said. “I was looking forward to it, but it made more sense to prepare for the season. It’s definitely a huge honor and exciting any time you get the opportunity to represent something bigger than yourself like that.

“It’s a really big deal. But a lot of it is just the unfortunate reality of having to weigh not what’s more important but essentially what I’m preparing for, and it made more sense not to risk anything and to prepare for the season.”

Cease’s highly impressive ’22 performance included 14 consecutive starts from May 29 to Aug. 11 when he allowed one earned run or fewer, becoming the first starter (non-opener) since 1913 to accomplish the feat. The man with one of the game’s best sliders also was named AL Pitcher of the Month for June and July, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to win such an honor twice in the same season.

With that confidence, but certainly not comfort, in tow, Cease is following the same basic preparatory process as last offseason, with the caveat of starting his bullpen work a little later. He’s trying to develop the changeup a little more, but he is primarily building up arm strength and getting his body ready.

Cease is also staying in consistent contact with White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz, something he was not able to do last offseason due to the lockout.

“There is a lot less to work on,” Cease said. “The previous season, I had a lot of things that needed to be ironed out, whereas it’s more rest and making sure my body is prepared for the long run [that] is a little more important right now.

“So, I’m able to kind of fine tune the little things as opposed to having to do a whole lot of work up front. The biggest thing is just a little more like a congruent offseason in terms of getting to work with Ethan and getting to follow a plan, and not having any doubts of when something is going to start.”

Although Cease hasn’t viewed the full Spring Training pitching schedule, he believes there’s less to be done early. It’s about getting ready for the beginning of the season and being able to work deep into starts on a regular basis until the end.

The White Sox agreed to terms on a one-year, $5.7 million deal with Cease, who is due to become a free agent after the 2025 season. He’s open to a longer deal with the organization, as he similarly spoke about at the end of the ’22 regular season.

“I’d always be open to something that’s a fair, good deal,” Cease said. “To my knowledge, there’s nothing in the works in that regard. But I love Chicago, and I would always be open to having a dialogue, for sure.”

Cease thanked his parents and his high school coaches for helping him get to this lofty spot. Credit also goes to Katz and the catchers who have worked in tandem with Cease. But the hurler deserves plenty of personal praise.

Even with Cease's ’22 excellence, nothing is being taken for granted. He plans to be part of greater White Sox success after the team underachieved last season.

“Obviously, we had such high expectations for last season,” Cease said. “If you take pride in what you're doing and you really took that to heart, failing and losing like that, it hurts. Any time you can have a little chip on your shoulder and have that extra motivation, it’s always a positive.

“My motivation is knowing that it’s not given and that if I don’t show up and I don’t put the work in, it’s not going to happen. I just want to perform well and contribute to a winning team and do what it takes.”