Q-and-A With White Sox’s Lucas Giolito: Fastball Command Is Biggest Focus

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito has been a standout performer since his call-up from Triple-A Charlotte, going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in three starts.

Acquired from the Nationals last December in the Adam Eaton trade, the 23-year-old Giolito recently took time for a question-and-answer session on how he’s adjusting to his new settings.

How has handling the spotlight been?

Giolito: “Media attention and all of that stuff that comes with it are just part of the job. That does not bother me in the least. As a matter of fact, it is fun and enjoyable. I like to give a good interview or see what is going on Twitter sometimes. You don’t get too deep into it, but at the same time, it is all good stuff. The outside stuff has never been an issue.”

Have you thought much about having the potential to be a big star in a big city?

Giolito: “I have never paid it much mind. It is cool after a performance to hear the fans and see their interest. I love that they are supporting it and that people care. What I am doing is for myself and for my team. That is what it comes down to at the very base level. We play a team sport. I am going out there to win for the team.”

What’s you biggest key to success? 

Giolito: “The first thing is to command the fastball. Strike one is very important. Using the fastball to get ahead is the goal. The thing I have learned this year that has been so valuable is to pitch up in the zone. Pounding the ball up in the zone is different for me now. When I was in high school, they taught us to get that angle down in the lower zone. You learn to use the downward angle, but you can pitch up with it. Both the lower and upper end and off-speed work off of that very well. Fastball command is one, two and three for me.

“The new trend of batters swinging up makes hitters try to golf pitches. Last year I was burned a bit by that approach. When my fastball was flat and throwing a good fastball down or change-up down, guys would just clobber it. Now early in the count, I am running a fastball up and in there. This can generate a weak or more defensive swing.”

How does being 6-foot-6 help you on the mound?

Giolito: “Being tall helps me generate some angles with my pitches that hitters don’t always like. I don’t really think about that much. I am able to throw the ball up and down because of it. Even the fastball that is up may look like it is coming down because of those angles. We did that in my last start — fastballs up, fastballs down. The breaking balls are more effective this way.”

You’ve come to find out that in your case, velocity is overrated?

Giolito: “When I was trying to throw 97 miles per hour is when I was getting in trouble. I was leaving the ball over the middle to get hit by trying to force pitches. I was just overthrowing. Now I am at a point where I know where my arm is at. It would be cool to add on velocity. I know it is in there, because I have shown it before. In the offseason, maybe I can work on building up arm strength for next season. Right now I am going to use what I have and trust what I have — 92-93 (with movement) is going to be better than 97 down the middle.”

What’s pitching coach Don Cooper meant to to your development?

Giolito: “The slider that he started to help me with in spring training, I have been throwing it all year. It was inconsistent in the minor leagues, but I stuck with it. Now up here, it has become a weapon. It has a vertical break to it. For me, it acts like a way harder curveball you could say. It is a little tighter and smaller. I have been able to throw it in a second-pitch sequence and create a swing and miss. The slider for sure was Coop’s suggestion, and we have been working on that all year.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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