GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dylan Cease is ready to get into game action Monday against the Cubs at Camelback Ranch, having thrown a simulated game Wednesday during the White Sox off-day.
But the right-hander also feels supremely ready for his 2021 Cactus League debut based on the work that he has gotten done on the back fields with pitching coach Ethan Katz.
“It's never a bad thing to be as prepared as you can going into a start,” said Cease on Thursday. “I think the biggest difference is just filling up the strike zone.
“I haven't pitched in any real games yet, but in my live [sessions], I've mostly been filling up the zone. I've been able to attack with my stuff, which is really refreshing.”
Cease spoke of a heavy emphasis on fastball command, an inconsistent trait by his own admission in 2020 when he walked an American League-high 34 batters over 58 1/3 innings. Cease has moved into more of a "compete" mode now, but he added that he’s pleased with getting more of a sideways shape through his slider and that his curveball is as good as it’s ever been right now, in terms of it being a more vertical pitch.
“I've done a good job of throwing it for strikes. ... Shape-wise, it's a similar shape,” said Cease of his curve. “I'm having way more consistent success executing it. That's just little tweaks. But I feel really confident with where I'm at with both of them.”
Third to first
• Yasmani Grandal has still not played in a Cactus League game after twisting his right knee in running drills on Feb. 24. But White Sox manager Tony La Russa continues to paint a picture of progress being made by the catcher.
“Very encouraging,” La Russa said. “Yesterday, even though it was an off-day, Cease and [Jonathan] Stiever threw a simulated game.
“Four innings of baseball. Yasmani took swings and looked really good. We just had a situation drill and Yasmani swung the bat as good as anybody. We’re all encouraged. I don’t know timetable yet, but we’re all encouraged by what we’ve seen.”
The White Sox have 18 Cactus League games scheduled after Thursday.
• Jonathan Lucroy made two strong throws on Reds stolen base attempts of second. Shogo Akiyama swiped second after getting a great jump on Reynaldo López in the third, but Lucroy nailed Blandino in the fourth inning with a strike to shortstop Tim Anderson covering the base.
• Eloy Jiménez tripled and homered Thursday, with his home run coming on the first pitch of the sixth, hitting the left-field scoreboard.
He said it
“Six times we’ve been losers, messes up the rest of the day. And you try to draw some positives because you work on it and all that stuff. But just got to manage better. The guys are trying hard, so I’ll manage better.” -- La Russa, on wanting the team to win during Spring Training