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Stiever's debut a success; Sox charge on

@scottmerkin
September 13, 2020

CHICAGO -- The start of Jonathan Stiever’s Major League career during a 5-2 White Sox victory over the Tigers on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field didn’t exactly go as the right-hander planned. Stiever, the No. 6 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, walked Victor Reyes and Willi Castro and allowed

CHICAGO -- The start of Jonathan Stiever’s Major League career during a 5-2 White Sox victory over the Tigers on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field didn’t exactly go as the right-hander planned.

Stiever, the No. 6 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, walked Victor Reyes and Willi Castro and allowed singles to Miguel Cabrera and Jorge Bonifacio among the first five hitters he faced during a 36-pitch first inning in his debut. But the 23-year-old allowed just one run in this early escape and settled down to retire the final nine Tigers he faced over his 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three among his 73 pitches, with Daz Cameron becoming his first career strikeout, and induced nine swinging strikes, per Statcast.

Box score

After the solid effort in the no-decision, marking his first true live game action since Aug. 29 of last season for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Stiever spoke about handling the butterflies.

Menechino preaching win-now mentality

“In the first, there wasn’t much there to be honest, just trying to settle back in and find my mechanics,” Stiever said. “Really the second, third and fourth, just getting ahead with the fastball, that was obvious for me. I wasn’t able to get ahead. Once I was able to do that, in disadvantaged counts to hitters, [I] was able to work off of that. That’s how I pitch: Just took me a while to find that rhythm and location.”

“When you're making your debut, you want to do great, and you want to press and you want everything to go as good as possible,” said third baseman Yoán Moncada, who had three hits in support of Stiever, through interpreter Billy Russo.

“It definitely was a learning lesson for him, and then after that first inning, he settled down. He's going to be OK.”

One week ago, the White Sox told Stiever he may make this start with the way the rotation was lining up. Stiever received the official news a couple of days ago while working at the alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill.

His family, who appeared on Sunday’s broadcast with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone during the second inning, was thrilled for Stiever’s promotion. His relatives were probably just as happy to see him get through the first with reliever Jimmy Cordero warming up, assisted by catcher James McCann throwing out Reyes trying to advance to second on an errant pitch to Castro.

Shortstop Tim Anderson, who had two more hits to raise his MLB-leading batting average to .362, made a great catch and swipe tag and the play was upheld by video replay.

McCann and pitching coach Don Cooper also made mound visits to give Stiever a chance to reset.

“Gave me a second to catch my breath, and slow my heart rate down, and then figure out the plan for the hitter coming up,” Stiever said. “Took a little bit for me to settle in. Able to quiet things down and go back with a plan for the hitter.”

One Detroit run certainly wasn’t going to be enough to hold off the American League’s most potent offense. The White Sox tied the game on Yoán Moncada’s double in the second following James McCann’s single and seventh career stolen base, and took the lead on Eloy Jiménez’s 13th home run this season coming in the fourth off Spencer Turnbull. The White Sox added three in the fifth to finish 9-1 against the Tigers this season and 21-3 overall against Detroit, Kansas City (9-1) and Pittsburgh (3-1).

Since dropping a doubleheader at home to St. Louis on Aug. 15 and falling to 10-11, the White Sox have a 20-5 mark and now are the No. 1 seed in the American League. Sunday’s victory sets up an AL Central showdown between the division-leading White Sox and the second-place Twins, with one game separating the two. The four-game set at Guaranteed Rate Field begins Monday night, with Dylan Cease against José Berríos on the mound, and manager Rick Renteria doesn’t see any reason to change the approach for this big series.

“We just try to win tomorrow night. Take it one day at a time, one game at a time,” said Renteria, whose team has a magic number of six to clinch a playoff spot. “Try to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best possible chance of winning a ballgame, and then we’ll deal with the next one after that.”

“[The White Sox] have done a really nice job in that organization of drafting, developing, a couple great pickups, to put that team on the field,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And that is a very, very good team. I don't think they're going to go away, because they have some young talent.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.