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Cease dominating so far in Triple-A

No. 21 prospect has fanned 9, allowed no runs in 10 innings
@scottmerkin
April 14, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Dylan Cease took the mound for his second start with Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday afternoon in conditions, the temperature was 47 degrees temperature and it was raining as the game progressed. But the No. 21 prospect in baseball heated up Victory Field against the Indianapolis Indians. Cease,

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Dylan Cease took the mound for his second start with Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday afternoon in conditions, the temperature was 47 degrees temperature and it was raining as the game progressed. But the No. 21 prospect in baseball heated up Victory Field against the Indianapolis Indians.

Cease, wearing No. 25, featured a fastball in the 96-99 mph range over his five scoreless innings. He struck out four, walked one and allowed two hits. In 10 innings over two starts at Triple-A this year, Cease has not allowed a run, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

This sort of weather should prepare Cease for April in Chicago. Then again, it didn't really detract from his focus.

“Conditions really don’t affect me and it’s not something I worry about,” said Cease, who threw 34 of his 60 pitches for strikes. “If you can’t handle a little adversity, you shouldn’t be out there competing.”

Calling the 23-year-old Cease merely a pitcher really doesn’t do justice to his focus, preparation and maturity. He’s more of a mound technician, working on attacking both sides of the plate with his fastball and honing the finer points of his craft, such as the shape of his slider and curveball.

On Sunday, Cease mixed in a few good changeups at the right time in the count. Even in the fifth, with the rain pounding down and the game not yet official, Cease got the ball and was ready to go to finish the frame.

But Cease’s teammates on the Knights didn’t need to see the right-hander dominate again to realize what a special pitcher he already is.

“Just the way he handles himself on the mound and the way he attacks the strike zone, he challenges hitters and he’s a confident kid,” Charlotte outfielder Nicky Delmonico said. “He handles himself really well and he’s definitely fun to watch. He’s going to be a big impact at the big league level. He’s got lights-out stuff.”

“He knows what he’s got to do,” said Seby Zavala, who caught Cease’s first Charlotte start. “He is not too focused on outside distractions. He’s always talking about how if he does his job and executes his pitches, for the most part things are going to go his way. I truly believe that’s how he feels.”

“From what I saw at the end of last year to now, he's only getting better,” said Zack Collins, who caught Cease against Indianapolis.

Collins pointed out Cease didn’t feel as dominant as he did in his first start compared to the end of last season. It’s not easy to jump into 2019 with the same sort of presence as ’18, when Cease was named MLB Pipeline’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year with a 12-2 mark, 2.40 ERA and 160 strikeouts. His innings-high came last season, and with the White Sox planning on Cease reaching the Majors this year, they began monitoring his workload in Spring Training.

One reporter asked Cease on Sunday if 25 would be his jersey number on the White Sox, to which he replied with a smile, “I’ll wear any number in the big leagues.” As for being ready now, Cease struck a diplomatic but confident tone.

“I definitely feel like I could compete in the Major Leagues right now,” Cease said. “But that’s really not something I focus on at all. The more I work on my pitches and execute what I’m doing, the more good things will happen. I try not to get ahead of myself and stay in the process.”

“There’s a long list of players that have talent, but the key to having success at the Major League level is being able to repeat it more than others,” White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. “Those are the ones who have longstanding success, longer careers, survive at the Major League level, but also help Major League clubs win ballgames. Now that he’s at a new level, once we see it here over an extended period, then we’ll have that conversation on what the next step is.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.