READY FOR THE CEASE-N

Sox right-han­der says con­fi­dence at all-time high af­ter dom­i­nant out­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN | dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @cst_­sox­van

An­drew Vaughn, whom the White Sox drafted No. 3 over­all in 2019 and has im­pressed with a pol­ished, dis­ci­plined hit­ting ap­proach, talked about the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween fac­ing pitch­ers in high Class A and those in the ma­jors he is see­ing in camp and in­trasquad games this sum­mer. Com­mand is the thing, he said. ‘‘Def­i­nitely have to be ready for [pitch­ers hit­ting corners],’’ said Vaughn, who poked an op­po­site-field home run against left-han­der Gio Gon­za­lez in the in­trasquad game Fri­day at Guar­an­teed Rate Field. ‘‘They’re go­ing to miss a quar­ter off the plate. They are good at hit­ting their spots.

‘‘Not ev­ery pitcher is per­fect. They’re go­ing to miss, and they might give you a pitch to hit or miss off the plate and give you a walk.’’

Might, but not al­ways. Vaughn ex­pe­ri­enced that when fac­ing right-han­der Dy­lan Cease in an in­trasquad game Thurs­day. In an ex­cep­tion­ally promis­ing out­ing that bodes well for the Sox’ ro­ta­tion, Cease gave Vaughn and ev­ery­one else al­most noth­ing to hit. He struck out Vaughn on two late-break­ing slid­ers.

On Fri­day, Cease de­clared him­self ready for the start of the sea­son next Fri­day against the Twins.

‘‘I feel as con­fi­dent as a player as I’ve ever been right now,’’ Cease said. ‘‘I don’t think you could draw it up any bet­ter.’’

Cease had com­mand to go with al­most un­hit­table stuff.

‘‘It was the best I’ve seen him,’’ said broad­caster and for­mer Cy Young Award win­ner Steve Stone, who watched the per­for­mance on TV. ‘‘He lo­cated his fast­ball both up and down, the oc­ca­sional change was good and both break­ing balls were ex­cep­tional. No hit­ter could read the spin out of his hand, lead­ing to very bad swings.’’

Cease al­lowed one run, struck out eight and walked one in 4„ in­nings. In one stretch, he fanned James Mc­Cann, Vaughn, Danny Mendick, Yer­min Mercedes and Luis Basabe in suc­ces­sion. Af­ter that, he got Adam En­gel on a fly to right, then struck out An­drew Romine be­fore call­ing it a night.

‘‘Yeah, hav­ing an out­ing like [Thurs­day] be­fore the sea­son is huge,’’ Cease said. ‘‘I feel like I’m as con­fi­dent of a player as I’ve ever been right now.’’

Cease’s stuff never has been an is­sue. He was the Cubs’ top pitch­ing prospect when they pack­aged him with out­fielder Eloy Jimenez in the trade for left-han­der Jose Quin­tana in July 2017, and he was named Pitcher of the Year by MLB Pipe­line in 2018.

In Cease’s first sea­son in the ma­jors in 2019, his stuff was ev­i­dent. His fast­ball av­er­aged 96.6 mph, and he dis­played an as­sort­ment of sharp break­ing balls. But his com­mand was in­con­sis­tent, and he fin­ished with a hefty 5.79 ERA in 14 starts.

Cease’s av­er­age of 9.99 strike­outs per nine in­nings was the high­est by a rookie in Sox his­tory. In many of his starts, one bad in­ning was his buga­boo. There was no such thing Thurs­day.

‘‘I’m sea­son-ready right now,’’ he said. ‘‘[On Thurs­day], it was a com­bi­na­tion of hav­ing the ‘A’ stuff and the ‘A’ com­mand. I’ve done it be­fore, but noth­ing as con­sis­tent as that. I’m look­ing to take that into the sea­son.’’

If Cease and right-han­der Rey­naldo Lopez are good, the Sox’ ro­ta­tion — with right-han­der Lu­cas Gi­olito and left-han­der Dal­las Keuchel at the top and left­ies Car­los Rodon and Gon­za­lez also in the mix — should shape up nicely. Those are still ‘‘ifs,’’ though.

‘‘It’s very promis­ing,’’ Cease said. ‘‘You watch Dal­las, and it’s just ef­fort­less fast­balls down in the zone. Nasty change­ups. Gio has good stuff and he’s 7 feet tall [6-6, ac­tu­ally], so he’s nasty. Rey­naldo sits 96 to 97 [mph]. So we’ve got po­ten­tial, if we all pitch like we can, to do some­thing spe­cial.’’ ✶

‘‘I FEEL AS CON­FI­DENT AS A PLAYER AS I’VE EVER BEEN RIGHT NOW.’’

Dy­lan Cease

NAM Y. HUH/AP

Dy­lan Cease al­lowed one run, struck out eight and walked one in4 „ in­nings in an in­trasquad game Thurs­day.

An­drew Vaughn

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