After shaky start, Lynn settles in for promising return

June 14th, 2022

DETROIT -- With the pitching staff banged up and the bullpen overtaxed, the White Sox limped into the series opener at Comerica Park knowing they just needed to hold things together for another day or two until reinforcements arrived.

A lengthy performance from Chicago’s Lance Lynn during his season debut on Monday would’ve gone a long way toward bridging the gap.

“No matter how he pitches,” manager Tony La Russa said before the game, “it's a humongous lift to our team. The most important part of it is that at the end of his assignment, he's healthy and ready for the next one. If he happens to pitch really well, that would be icing on the cake.”

While it wasn’t quite the outing Lynn wanted, the righty managed to limit the damage to a trio of runs over 4 1/3 innings. Chicago’s potent offense, led by José Abreu’s two-homer, four-RBI night, took care of its big man from there, coming from behind for a 9-5 win over the Tigers in the series opener.

“Early in the game, I wasn’t [making quality pitches]," Lynn said, “and I was able to do that as the game went on, which is good to build in for the next start.”

Lynn had been out since undergoing right knee surgery on April 5 to repair a slight tendon tear, and the smattering of White Sox fans in Detroit on Monday night cheered loudly as he jogged to the mound in the bottom of the first inning. They’ve seen what he can do for Chicago in the short time that he’s been around -- the 2021 All-Star logged 176 strikeouts against 45 walks and posted an 11-6 record and a 2.69 ERA last season -- and they were eager for more.

Monday might have been a night to knock off the rust, but Lynn was still every bit the competitor he’s always been, drawing a game-high nine swings and misses, including five whiffs on a four-seamer that sat in the low 90s. Lynn hadn’t appeared in a regular-season contest since Oct. 1, 2021, and he had made just two Spring Training starts this year before the knee balked.

His three rehab starts with Triple-A Charlotte totaled just 10 innings, and so the series opener with the Tigers was a good day to get a feel for what’s what and continue to build up his pitch count. Detroit came ready though, and the first pitch of Lynn’s season resulted in a 398-foot home run by Willi Castro.

“Early on, you’re trying to feel some things out and they jumped me pretty soon; first pitch of the game,” said Lynn, who scattered 10 hits, fanned four and didn’t walk a batter during his 88-pitch return. “I figured they would. It would have been nice to make a little bit more of a quality pitch there.”

Three pitches later brought a single. Five tosses into the 2022 campaign and Lynn had already allowed three baserunners. He gutted it out and maintained control from there, though, allowing just one run and zero extra-base hits after the first inning.

“He’s totally accountable by himself,” said La Russa, who stressed that Lynn’s heated exchange in the dugout with third-base coach Joe McEwing in the top of the third inning was nothing more than Lynn’s frustration with a missed pitch. “... It’s a huge plus for him that he’s accountable, and it’s a huge message for young pitchers.”

Lynn’s teammates, meanwhile, were buoyed by his presence and showed it at the plate. Abreu started the fun in the first inning with a two-run home run that traveled 411 feet. He added a two-run moonshot in the top of the ninth that sailed 444 feet and marked his team-best ninth homer of the year.

“That’s his patented stroke; he hits the ball hard from foul line to foul line,” La Russa said. “He put on a heck of an exhibition today.”

The White Sox also tacked on two runs in the fifth on RBI singles from Danny Mendick and Luis Robert, and pushed their lead to 7-3 in the seventh on a curious throwing error from Tigers pitcher Andrew Chafin that led to two runs and an eventual RBI knock from Andrew Vaughn.