Cease's winning debut with White Sox may have Cubs fans weighing the what-ifs

  • Once upon a time, pitcher Dylan Cease as a great hope for the Chicago Cubs' pitching rotation of the future. On Wednesday, he won his first major-league start, but as a member of the Chicago White Sox.

    Once upon a time, pitcher Dylan Cease as a great hope for the Chicago Cubs' pitching rotation of the future. On Wednesday, he won his first major-league start, but as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Associated press

Updated 7/3/2019 6:06 PM

If you closed your eyes, it would have been easy to picture yourself at Wrigley Field Wednesday on a preholiday afternoon, with a lilting lake breeze cooling the ball yard on a humid day.

And if you imagined a little harder, you could have seen in your mind's eye pitcher Dylan Cease and left fielder Eloy Jimenez on the same field for the Chicago Cubs.


Upon opening your eyes, you would have seen you were on the South Side at Guaranteed Rate Field, which had a festive feel as Cease made his major-league debut with the Chicago White Sox.

Cease acquitted himself well after an early wild spate. He wound up working 5 innings and earning the victory as the White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 7-5 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

For Cubs fans, the spectacle may have made for some wistful daydreaming.

The 23-year-old right-hander out of Milton, Georgia, was the Cubs' sixth-round selection in the 2014 draft, and he was considered a fast-tracker, a future mainstay of a starting rotation that has been woefully lacking in homegrown pitchers.

You know the story from there. In a move to go for a repeat of their 2016 World Series championship, the Cubs packaged both Cease and Jimenez to the White Sox in a July 13, 2017 trade that brought lefty Jose Quintana to the North Side.

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"I have no complaints," Cease said. "If you would have told me at the beginning of my career I'd be on the other side (of town), I probably wouldn't have believed you. Today was definitely incredible."

In fairness to all sides, it takes time to see how a trade pans out or who "won" the trade, as fans and media like to put it.

Jimenez and Cease are just beginning their journeys, with Jimenez having begun his big-league career with the Sox on Opening Day this year. Quintana is 5-7 with a 4.21 ERA this season as he enters his Fourth of July start at Pittsburgh. Since the trade, he is 25-21 with a 4.01 ERA. And for his career, he is 75-75 with a 3.64 ERA.

In other words, he's been OK but no great shakes. If that doesn't change over time and Cease and Jimenez go on to be stars and help the White Sox to a World Series title to cap their own rebuild, then we'll know who will have "won" the trade.

The early indication: advantage Sox.

The Sox fans Wednesday's crowd of 26,023 cheered every one of Cease's early moves, including his walk-in from the bullpen as he was accompanied by a TV camera.


"Even when I walked out pregame, (fans) they were lined up from third base all the way behind the bullpen cheering," he said. "That much energy definitely helped me lock in and, I think, was good for the team."

Cease recorded an out on the first pitch of the game, a fly out by JaCoby Jones. Christin Stewart followed with a groundout before Cease ran into trouble, walking the next two batters before hitting Jeimer Candelario (another former Cubs prospect) with a pitch as Candelario slammed his bat to the ground in pain.

Cease gave up a 2-run single to Harold Castro and a walk to Niko Goodrum before finally retiring the side but needing 33 pitches to do it.

From there, he settled in nicely, with his fastball clocking in the upper-90s (mph) and getting strikeouts on his off-speed stuff, which had Detroit hitters off-balance throughout the 5 innings.

"He probably had a few butterflies," said Sox manager Rick Renteria, also a North Side castoff. "His fastball command probably wasn't as good as we wanted it to be. Worked through some high pitch counts but pulled out his breaking pitch, his changeup, and then when you saw him commanding the fastball, that's pretty nice. He got up to 99 (mph). I thought he did a pretty nice job of setting down and getting through 5 innings of work."

For his efforts, Cease got a postgame dousing from none other than Jimenez. Like Cease, Renteria noticed the energy at the ballpark on a weekday afternoon.

"They're getting excited," he said of the fans. "They should be. All these young men are coming through the system. They're developing. They're getting better. Hopefully, as we've said before, it will be the beginning of a nice run for us on the South Side. "

With a little assist from the North Side.

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