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posted: 8/8/2013 9:21 PM

Rienzo looks like a keeper for White Sox

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  • Andre Rienzo, the first Brazilian to pitch in the major leagues, has a 1.38 ERA after 2 road starts for the White Sox.

      Andre Rienzo, the first Brazilian to pitch in the major leagues, has a 1.38 ERA after 2 road starts for the White Sox.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo, right, talks with catcher Josh Phegley in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

      Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo, right, talks with catcher Josh Phegley in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
    Associated Press

 
 

He has only made 2 starts for the White Sox since coming up from Class AAA Charlotte and taking Jake Peavy's rotation spot, but you already can tell Andre Rienzo likes to perform with plenty of emotion on the mound.

Rienzo's not much different off the field.

"Just being here in the major leagues, it makes my dream happen," the 25-year-old pitcher said.

There's an air of genuine passion around Rienzo, and he exuded some extra emotion on two topics.

First, when Rienzo started at Cleveland on July 30 -- the day Peavy was traded to the Boston Red Sox -- he became the first Brazilian to pitch in the majors.

Indians catcher Yan Gomes became the first position player from Brazil to make it to the big leagues when he broke in with the Toronto Blue Jays last season.

"To be here it is my dream," Rienzo said with teary eyes. "It's really challenging because soccer is huge in Brazil; it's the first sport. They don't even have high school baseball in Brazil.

"They have leagues, but you only play on Saturday and Sunday, and there are only nine guys on a team. I always pitched, but when I was done I'd play third base and then other positions.

"Not just me and Yan, but there are other guys in the minor leagues that are also trying to open doors and trying to put Brazil on the baseball map. People have the talent there, but you just hear about soccer.

"Yan was the first one; I'm the second. I hope we opened doors for more guys to come here."

Second, Rienzo was emotional when asked about the 50-game suspension he served last season for violating the minor-league drug-prevention treatment program. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander was at Class A Winston-Salem when he got the news in late April.

"Unfortunately, during the off-season, I used a dietary supplement that I purchased at a health-food store in my home country of Brazil, believing it to be legitimate," Rienzo said in a statement at the time of the suspension.

"It is now apparent that the supplement was tainted. I understand that I am responsible for what I put in my body and therefore have accepted the 50-game suspension."

Rienzo served his sentence and finished up the 2012 season with Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte. When I asked Rienzo about the about the suspension this week, he was forthcoming. And emotional, of course.

"I'm not afraid to talk about it," Rienzo said. "In the minor leagues, you don't have too much money. I bought it (dietary supplement) in Brazil, and I didn't put anything in my body I thought was illegal. But I bought it and it was my fault, completely my fault.

"I didn't need to do that. I learned a lot about it, and I'm happy the White Sox supported me."

Now, the Sox have Rienzo's back on a professional level. And based on his first 2 starts (2 earned runs in 13 innings, 1.38 ERA), Rienzo is going to be in the rotation for the long haul.

He makes his first start at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.

"I like him," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Rienzo. "I mean, heck, 2 quality starts on the road. First major-league appearance at Cleveland, a challenging club with all of the lefties, and certainly Detroit's always a challenging club even though it didn't have (Miguel) Cabrera in the lineup. He did very well."

Rienzo limited the Indians and the Tigers to a .188 batting average, but he also issued 6 walks in his first two major-league outings.

"The blip on the radar screen for him was inopportune walks," Cooper said. "But that's not something new for us to deal with here. We're going to roll up our sleeves and get after it.

"As far as his first 2 starts, it's a credit to our minor-league system. I saw this kid two years, and for him to be as equipped as he is right now is impressive.

"He's got the four pitches: fastball, curveball, cutter and change. The hard part is not necessarily getting here. The hard part is staying here, so that's what we've got on our hands now.

"The good news is he's got all the equipment in the world to do that."

When asked to evaluate his first 2 starts, Rienzo again reflected on his early days playing baseball back home.

"In Brazil, you play for the team," he said. "All my life, I learned to play for the team. I don't care too much about wins or my ERA, I care about helping the team to win.

"My 2 starts with the White Sox, I helped a little bit. I had some innings where there was trouble. But I hope to help the team more my next start."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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