OAKLAND -- Chicago's young starting rotation is still a work in progress, but there have been some promising hints of consistency from the White Sox starters in the early going.
The Sox have gotten at least five innings from their starter in 11 of their 14 games, and in nine of those outings, their starter yielded three or fewer earned runs.
With that said, and small sample sizes notwithstanding, the next step for this rotation looks to be cutting down on walks -- Sox starters lead the American League with 43 free passes -- and working deeper into ballgames.
"We've done a really good job of minimizing the damage with our walks, no doubt, but at the end of the day, we definitely need to minimize our walks and control that a little bit and focus on staying more aggressive," right-hander James Shields said.
The Sox particularly struggled with control in their last trip through the rotation. Shields and Lucas Giolito issued five walks apiece in their last starts, while Reynaldo Lopez issued four walks on Monday despite striking out 10. Wednesday's starter, Carson Fulmer, also walked six in his previous outing.
Manager Rick Renteria believes that the early control issues are both mechanical and mental to a certain extent.
For instance, Renteria and the Sox pitching coaches have sometimes noted poor angles to the plate in their pitchers' deliveries when reviewing film.
But Renteria also thinks that part of the problem stems from a lack of trust in throwing certain pitches for strikes, which he believes will improve as his starters gain experience and confidence throughout the season.
"There's a lot of discovery going on, and that will continue," Renteria said. "That's kind of never-ending."
That hasn't necessarily just applied to the younger starters, either. After a three-inning start Tuesday in which he allowed eight earned runs, veteran right-hander Miguel Gonzalez noted that he didn't have a good feel for his fastball and had to rely more on his offspeed pitches as a result.
Factors such as cold weather and an inconsistent schedule marred by weather-related cancellations certainly haven't helped, either, so the Sox, as they continue to make adjustments and seek consistency as a team, aren't yet too worried about the trend.
"We don't really put too much emphasis on the first couple of starts of the season," Shields said. "When we have a bigger sample midseason, I think that would be a better question to ask, but again, we're going to try our best not to walk guys, and that's what our job is."