GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In a quest to improve on a rough 2018 campaign, White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito described his offseason as not just working hard, but also working smart.
Part of that work involved a neural feedback program, where basically the company read his brainwaves, according to Giolito.
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"You work to build better neural pathways," Giolito said before Thursday's workouts at Camelback Ranch. "Everyone is different.
"For me it was about focusing on breathing, being confident at all times. Just things like that where I kind of put it all together on the mental side -- always have that confidence, always feel good when I'm out on the mound competing, and kind of let everything else take over."
Giolito, 24, produced a 2.04 ERA over four Cactus League starts in 2018, striking out 17 and walking four. That control didn't carry over into the regular season, as Giolito topped the American League with 90 walks and gave up more earned runs (118) than any other pitcher to go with a 6.13 ERA.
A number of starts opened poorly for Giolito and sort of snowballed, so he's trying to find greater consistency in 2019. White Sox manager Rick Renteria liked what he saw in Giolito's first bullpen on Thursday.
"His delivery, his arm swing is much shorter, much more compact," Renteria said. "And for a big man, you think that's tough to do. He stayed very under control and hit his spots more than not. He looked very, very good."
"A big key for me is getting my curveball over for a strike," Giolito said. "I've really been feeling that pitch out a lot over the course of the offseason. I know it can be a real weapon for me early in the count, especially to lefties, just dropping that curveball in there. Just getting ahead of batters in general."
This program was recommended by a friend to Giolito and is one Dylan Cease is now doing. It was a "one and done thing," where Giolito basically "marathoned 20 sessions" during the offseason. He hopes to continue gaining its benefits over 30-plus starts.
"It's got a pretty good track record so far. For me it was a pretty easy decision," Giolito said. "Think of what LeBron [James] said a few years ago of how he invests into himself before seasons. You're in control of what you're bringing to the table as an athlete, so why not do everything you can to better yourself?"
Struggles lead to bullpen success
Catcher Welington Castillo is happy to have Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colomé as part of the late-inning bullpen crew. But the veteran also believes those struggles dealt with by the White Sox younger relievers in '18 will help them succeed in '19 and beyond.
"It's good to fall down sometimes because you get up and you are going to learn from that," Castillo said. "When you go down again, you learn. You know how to get up and keep going."
Thursday's early rain in the Glendale area and threat of rain later in the day caused the White Sox to move up their workouts. The only real change, according to Renteria, was that catchers hit in the cages.
"We tried to get in and out today," Renteria said.
Nova provides veteran guidance
In James Shields, the White Sox staff had a 200-plus innings eater who also provided guidance to younger pitchers. Giolito, Cease, Michael Kopech and Dylan Covey were just a few who spoke of Shields' influence.
Ivan Nova, acquired from the Pirates in an offseason trade, could fill that same void in '19.
"A very well-spoken young man. A professional," Renteria said. "He gets after it, has a looseness to him, has been around the block on several organizations. He brings in experience and the ability to communicate with everybody across the board."
Nova, who enters his 10th big league season, doesn't consider himself a vocal leader.
"If I've got to approach somebody, I'll do it my way," Nova said. "I'm not a type of guy that's going to step up in front of everybody and say something. I don't like to get involved in anyone's personal space. But if I've got to say something to someone, I'm going to grab them aside and do it that way."
They said it
"We're about winning here. It's not about trying to win. It's not, 'Oh, we're feeling it out.' It's about winning now. That's the mindset now. I'm all about it. I'm sick of losing, honestly." -- Giolito