Giolito breathing easy in breakout season as Chicago White Sox starter

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, May 18, 2019.

    Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, May 18, 2019.

 
 
Updated 5/22/2019 8:16 PM

After going back to the laboratory over the winter, Lucas Giolito has been passing one test after another in his second full season in the Chicago White Sox's starting rotation.

With a shortened arm swing and fresh attitude, Giolito has won his last 3 starts while allowing 2 earned runs in 19⅓ innings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He did make an arm-swing change, one," Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Two, I think he absorbed everything that happened last season, good and bad. I think it has played a huge role in his development and his growth."

As he shoots for his fourth straight win in a big test against the high-powered Astros on Thursday night at Houston, Giolito appears to be a completely different pitcher than he was last year.

There was some good in 2018 -- he led the White Sox with 10 wins and was one of only three American League pitchers aged 24 or younger to make at least 32 starts and throw 170 or more innings.

There was plenty of bad -- Giolito had the highest ERA (6.13) and most walks per 9 innings (4.67) in the major leagues.

A former first-rounder, the Washington Nationals drafted the right-hander No. 16 overall in 2012 out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, Giolito worked on his mechanics in the off-season.

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He also completed a neurofeedback program that has helped him "attack the day" and improve his breathing.

"It's all in the breath," Giolito said. "If things are starting to go a little bit haywire out there, I always go back to my breath. Step off the mound, take a big, deep breath, reset, forget about what happened, on to the next pitch."

The ability to calm himself down on the mound has helped Giolito avoid the big innings that were so commonplace last season, especially early.

Overall, in his first two innings of games in 2018, he had a 9.29 ERA. By the time Giolito recovered, it was usually too late.

That has changed this season, and Giolito is not flinching when trouble comes. In his last start, Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Giolito issued back-to-back walks with one out in the fourth inning and calmly worked out of the jam.

With the White Sox's rotation reeling from the loss of three potential starters -- Carlos Rodon, Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning -- due to Tommy John surgery, Giolito's impressive step up this season is even more important.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think we saw it when he first showed up in spring training," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "Obviously the adjustments he made in his delivery, with his arm arc, have had a significant impact on his ability to command both the fastball as well as improvement in his changeup.

"All 30 teams, we're all guilty come spring training, when a guy comes back or looks good in spring and looks good even in the first few sidelines, of getting artificially exited about, 'Oh, this will be the year they take a step forward.'

"It always makes you feel a little bit better when there's an objective reason for why there's a reason to believe he could take that step forward. And for Lucas, it's not just the experience or the maturity he gained over the last season-plus being in the big leagues, it is those mechanical adjustments.

"There's something you can tangibly point to that's having an effect on how the ball's coming out of his hand, both from a command standpoint and from a pitch-quality standpoint."

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