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Giolito confident after success at season's end

Young right-hander feels like he belongs after putting 2016 struggles behind him
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing tall and lean, Lucas Giolito looks every bit the ideal right-handed pitcher. Add a power fastball and plus curveball, and it's no wonder he's been so well regarded for years.

It's why he was a first-round Draft pick by the Nationals in 2012 and why he had to be included in the White Sox's haul that sent Adam Eaton to Washington in December 2016.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing tall and lean, Lucas Giolito looks every bit the ideal right-handed pitcher. Add a power fastball and plus curveball, and it's no wonder he's been so well regarded for years.

It's why he was a first-round Draft pick by the Nationals in 2012 and why he had to be included in the White Sox's haul that sent Adam Eaton to Washington in December 2016.

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But psychological steps Giolito took last season are, in his words, the reasons he finally found consistent success in the Major Leagues at the end of the year and why he has confidence in similar results for the coming season.

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"That feeling of belonging at the highest level," Giolito said Friday morning before the White Sox hit the field for their third day of pitchers and catchers workouts. "The feeling of confidence when you go out there to pitch against whatever lineup it might be in the big leagues. When you have that, then you're able to perform at your highest capabilities. You're able to perform your best."

Such performances were on display late last year when Giolito, at 6-feet-6 and 255 pounds, compiled a 2.38 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings after a callup from the Minors.

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It was a big improvement from the results he had in brief big league stints in 2016 while with the Nationals. And even the way Giolito pitched during Spring Training a year ago and at the beginning of the season in Triple-A didn't foreshadow what was to come.

"Obviously, a year ago at this time, or 50 weeks ago at this time, we were in camp he was scuffling," White Sox GM Rick Hahn said this week. "Sometimes, especially with high-profile guys coming out of the Draft like Lucas was, you want to live up to those expectations so badly with the organization that showed faith in you and then similarly when you wind up getting traded you want to prove that you were with it to the new organization, so Lucas had a lot of those things sort of working in between his ears at times, which I think could get in the way."

Video: KC@CWS: Giolito tosses seven innings of one-run ball

Giolito, 23, acknowledges now there was a lot of self-imposed pressure.

"It's not like they're telling you if you don't perform you're going back down," he said of his six appearances with the Nationals in 2016, when he had a 6.75 ERA and gave up seven home runs in 21 1/3 innings. "But you know in the back of your head, 'I'm in the big leagues for a reason; I better do my job.' I put too much pressure on myself in that sense then. Whereas now, just why not have confidence in myself. Just enjoy that moment and enjoy the experience."

That clarity came to him midway through last season. He applied it at Triple-A Charlotte and brought it with him to Chicago.

"Trusting the stuff. That's really important, and I was able to do that a little bit more last year," said Giolito, who set a 200-innings goal for himself after he was capped at 174 last season. "But I need to continue to build off that. I think if you want to be successful in the big leagues you have to feel like you belong in the big leagues, and it took me a little while to figure that out. But now I feel a lot better about that and I'm looking forward to, like I said before, building off it and working on things I need to work on and achieving more success."

Chris Thomas is contributor to MLB.com and covered the White Sox on Friday.

Chicago White Sox, Lucas Giolito