Brighter days have arrived for Chicago White Sox
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One year ago on these same grounds at Camelback Ranch, Lucas Giolito stood in front of the cameras, recorders and notebooks and said he made some drastic mental and mechanical changes during the off-season.
The White Sox's starting pitcher vowed to be better.
Giolito then shifted his focus to the Sox as a whole, and that's when the interview took a turn for the worse.
"I'm sick of losing, honestly," Giolito said. "I've been losing from the minor leagues, my last few years, coming up here. I'm ready to win."
Giolito did everything he could to achieve that goal last season, going 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA. In 2018, the big right-hander was 10-13 while posting the highest ERA (6.13) in the major leagues.
Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson also broke out big last season, Jose Abreu was the American League RBI leader (123) and Eloy Jimenez was the league's rookie leader in home runs (31), RBI (79) and total bases (240).
There were plenty of positives, but the White Sox still finished at 72-89, their seventh straight losing season.
Even the most barren teams see the bright side on the first day of spring training, but the White Sox finally have a reason to believe they'll make something of themselves this year.
In addition to a solid returning core, productive veterans Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez, Steve Cishek and Nomar Mazara have joined the roster.
Two more impact prospects -- Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal -- are joining the Sox this season and Michael Kopech is back after missing 2019 with Tommy John surgery.
Like the rest of the players and staff in camp, Giolito's confidence in the White Sox's ability to win is not just wishful thinking.
"I think it's very realistic because the fact that the young guys, we've been growing and learning for a few years now to the point where, 'OK, we're ready to put it together,'" Giolito said. "And now we have a bunch more help thanks to the acquisitions this off-season. I think for us, it's just about everyone buying in, being on the same page with the direction that we're going and just playing consistent baseball.
"I think that's what's been missing the past few years, just that consistency. Obviously, the talent's there. But just coming to the field every day saying, 'We're going to win this ballgame,' and knowing that, just having that confidence."
Grandal joins the White Sox after five straight years of playing in the postseason, with the Dodgers and Brewers.
Like Giolito (chest-muscle strain), Grandal (calf) is nursing a minor injury and easing into camp. Unlike Giolito, Grandal has experience playing for winning teams and knows what it takes to make it happen.
"We're as strong as our weakest link," Grandal said. "I feel like we need to make everybody better, it doesn't matter if you're a reliever or a position player. I'm going to do my homework on everybody and make sure everybody is on the same page and then we'll go from there.
"We'll make adjustments as the year goes on. The quicker we can do it, the better."
Good luck finding somebody happier than Rick Hahn at Sox camp. Not only does he have a 491-642 record since taking over as general manager in 2013, Hahn has suffered more than most over the last three years of the rebuild.
"It's fun," he said. "There's a very positive vibe going on around this camp. You can sort of see how this thing looks like it may come together over the next several years. It's not just a one-year jump or something that regardless of how well this year goes is going to be out of grasp for us in the near future.
"When we started this whole process, it was about putting ourselves in position for annual contention. As you look around this camp and you see the guys that are not only here in terms of the veterans, but some of the young prospects that are coming behind them, you see we've gotten this into a position where certainly brighter days are ahead and we're probably talking years, not brighter months."