'Locked and ready to go,' Cease bounces back vs. A's
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dylan Cease said his outing last Wednesday, in which he allowed 11 runs on seven hits and four walks against the Royals, was like getting "punched in the face." So in Tuesday afternoon’s 5-4 win over the A’s at Camelback Ranch, Cease punched back.
The 2022 AL Cy Young runner-up responded to last week’s rare blunder by allowing three hits and two runs (one earned) over 3 1/3 innings, striking out four in his longest start of spring so far.
“I needed to [get back on the mound],” Cease said. “Any time you get beat down pretty good, I think the best thing is just to get back up there and keep going until you have some success.”
Cease struggled in the first inning, allowing back-to-back hits to Shea Langeliers and Seth Brown and then a walk to Brent Rooker. He had trouble locating his slider, but after two runs came home in the first, he was able to correct the issue, and had a smooth ending to his outing, holding the A’s scoreless for his last 2 1/3 innings.
“I threw curveballs and sliders really well for strikes,” Cease said. “I started off a little slow, but I feel like I got my rhythm. It’s definitely a positive step in the right direction.”
Cease is working to maintain the skillset that allowed him to pitch to a 2.20 ERA last season: locating his changeup and slider, in order to mix his pitches without falling behind in counts.
“That's my game,” Cease said about throwing first-pitch breaking pitches. “If I'm falling behind and throwing fastballs in there, it's not going to be the same dominance as when I'm getting ahead, 0-1, 0-2, with my off-speed. It just makes everything play up better.”
When Cease is in the zone, his slider is his most dominant pitch. Last year, he threw it 42.9% of the time. Against it, opposing batters hit .128.
“When I'm locked and ready to go, which I feel like I am now, I think these last couple [of starts before Opening Day] are going to be really sharp,” he said.
Manager Pedro Grifol was never worried.
“One start is not going to affect Dylan,” Grifol said. “Spring Training started. He’s working on some things -- he was doing just a little bit of what he does.”
Colas continues to impress
Oscar Colas is soaking in every moment of his first Spring Training.
The 24-year-old Cuban outfielder, who signed as an international free agent with the White Sox in January 2022, is amazed at his first taste of being part of an MLB organization and the sense of camaraderie that he’s found with the team.
“It feels like a family,” Colas told MLB.com in Spanish. “There’s a lot of Latino players, and everyone is a really good teammate.”
But taking time to soak in the moment isn’t getting in the way of his performance. Colas, Chicago’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is batting .364, and he slugged home runs in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday. His performance has certainly put him in contention to make the Opening Day roster, as he’s caught Grifol’s attention.
“He had a really good day, not just in [Sunday’s] game, but in the backfield,” Grifol said. “It was a really good day for his development.”
But Colas isn’t looking that far ahead to Opening Day.
“It’s really important to just focus on what’s going on right now,” Colas said. “That’ll be a decision the coaching staff is in charge of.”
Grifol praises catching depth
Grifol is pleased with his catching depth, led by Yasmani Grandal and Seby Zavala.
Both catchers are having solid performances at the plate this spring. Grandal is hitting .348, and his five RBIs are tied for second on the White Sox. Zavala is slashing .313/.455/.750.
“I go in there to the meetings every day, and they're going through the previous day,” Grifol said. “They're talking about pitch selection and all this stuff. That's been unbelievably impressive.”