3 lessons from White Sox Opening Day

Caution exercised with Giolito; pitching ups and downs; Pollock's wacky day

April 8th, 2022

DETROIT -- It’s only one game.

That phrase is a mantra that will be uttered by the White Sox and Tigers’ respective fan bases following Chicago's 5-4 loss Friday afternoon at Comerica Park. But if the Opening Day walk-off gave even the slightest indication of the 2022 American League Central, then this division should at the very least be entertaining.

“It's going to be a battle in the Central this year,” White Sox designated hitter Andrew Vaughn said. “We'll come out ready to go."

Here are three takeaways from the South Siders’ fourth straight Opening Day loss.

Giolito exits early
Lucas Giolito was cruising through four scoreless innings in his third straight Opening Day start, having allowed just one hit -- a Jonathan Schoop double in the second -- when he exited at 61 pitches. Teams are obviously trying to be careful with pitching staffs coming off a shortened Spring Training following the lockout, and Giolito’s exit was for precautionary measures.

But that caution was of the injury variety, with the staff ace feeling abdominal tightness in his left side. Giolito was not available postgame, as he was getting further evaluation.

“[He was] throwing the ball so well,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Giolito, who fanned six. “When he came out he felt a little tug in there, didn’t want to take any chances.“

The White Sox are already without top-of-the-rotation righty Lance Lynn for two months (right knee tendon tear) and they lost reliever Garrett Crochet for the season (imminent Tommy John surgery). So they can ill-afford an extended absence for Giolito.

“I’m concerned because, knowing him, he won’t want to come out. Drag him out of there,” La Russa said. “I’m concerned because he felt something, and he was smart: Didn’t feel well, didn't go back out because who knows what’s going to happen.

“We’ve got a lot riding on him. [He’s] getting checked and seeing what it is.”

Not a complete relief
With Giolito gone a little early, the bullpen had to fill the last 15 outs while preserving a lead.

Some relievers were successful, as Bennett Sousa made his Major League debut via a scoreless fifth and Kendall Graveman hurled 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his own White Sox debut. But highly regarded high-leverage relievers Aaron Bummer and closer Liam Hendriks struggled in the loss.

Bummer was charged with two runs in the eighth, with both coming home on Miguel Cabrera’s single. That single came on the first pitch from Hendriks with two outs in the frame, and it really wasn’t a bad pitch from the 2021 American League Reliever of the Year.

“Exactly where I wanted it, up and in off the plate,” Hendriks said, “and he broke his bat and it just landed in there. I made the pitch I wanted to but it’s not the result I wanted, and that’s the thing that hurts the most today.

“Yes, the loss hurts. But it’s the inherited runs and not picking up another teammate, and that’s what really irks me.”

Hendriks was entrusted with a 4-3 lead in the ninth after Vaughn homered, but Eric Haase tied the game with a one-out long ball. One out later, Austin Meadows tripled and set up Javier Báez, who singled off the right-field wall for the game-winner.

“Haase put up a good battle and I left that one leaking over middle-in, and that’s the pitch he hits -- especially after I threw him seven or eight straight fastballs,” Hendriks said. “I’ve just got to make better pitches.

“I’ve got to make better pitch selection. And that’s something that needs to happen really quickly. I just didn’t get it done.”

Pollock’s interesting opener
AJ Pollock began his White Sox career with three hits, one run scored and one RBI. But most people will be talking about the Báez game-ending fly ball over him in right.

It looked as though Pollock made an incredible catch on the deep drive after it hit off his glove and popped into the air. But through video review, it was clear the ball hit the wall before hitting Pollock’s glove. It just missed a home run and was just as close to being the third out in the ninth.

“I felt like I had another half a step,” Pollock said. “I got really tight on the wall there, felt it hit my glove and I didn’t know if it hit glove and [then] hit wall and hit glove.

“So the ball kind of popped up there. I caught it. I had no idea what to think of it. It was kind of a funky play, for sure.”

This ending wasn’t ideal for the White Sox. But it’s back to work Saturday afternoon with another AL Central battle.

“It is what it is,” Hendriks said. “We work toward tomorrow and now we go 161-1.”