By Bruce Levine —
CHICAGO (CBS) — The newest Chicago White Sox pitching prospect in their budding minor league system has left his Cub roots behind and moved on.
Moved from the Cubs to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade last Thursday, right-hander Dylan Cease debuted for his new organization Monday, throwing five innings of two-run ball for Class-A Kannapolis. What looms large next for the 21-year-old Cease is staying healthy and moving up the White Sox’s robust system.
Cease had elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014. He has since made a full recovery but has was moved slowly through the minors while with the Cubs. That also appears to be how the rebuilding White Sox will handle Cease, which he understands.
“At the end of the day, it is about learning and finding ways to make it,” Cease said. “I want to be part of something special here. It is exciting to be in this system where there are now so many talented guys.”
Cease has a 2.86 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while striking out 78 batters and walking 27 in 56 2/3 innings across 14 starts at Class-A this year. The numbers are solid, though he’s still left wanting more.
“I am not super happy with how I have executed my pitches,” Cease said. “As far as learning and growing as a pitcher, I feel I have learned a ton. I need to keep getting experience and working on improving.”
The White Sox’s feeling is Cease will be ready to join the rotation mix at the big league level by 2019. Since he started pitching as a pro in 2015, Cease only has amassed 34 starts and thrown 125 1/3 innings in total. His pitch counts stay low too, as he hasn’t topped 92 pitches in 2017 and is usually the 70- or 80-pitch range.
“I don’t know what their long-term plan is for me this season,” Cease said. “I know yesterday they kept it on the same plan the Cubs had me on. I went five innings and threw (61) pitches. I thought they would let me go maybe 90 pitches. I am thinking they will let me go longer by the end of the year. I am not really too sure.
“I appreciate what they are trying to do to keep me safe. I just look forward to the time I can compete in the seventh and eighth inning. I want to do that and put everything out there. Sometimes when you just go four or five innings, you leave the game feeling like you haven’t had a chance to give it everything you have.”
White Sox brass will closely monitor the young power arms like Cease in their farm system as they progress.
“He is a guy who hits the mid-90s on the radar gun with his fastball,” White Sox manager Rickey Renteria said after watching film and reading reports on Cease. “We see him trying to establish his breaking pitches. For these young pitchers, it all starts with getting fastball command first. You begin working off of that. Dylan had Tommy John surgery before he went into the draft. He has had no issues since then. He is one of those guys that everybody wants to have. Potentially, he is a front-line starter. Once we see him a little more, we will get a better feel for him. Right now from video and reports, he is a pretty impressive young man.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.