READY FOR THE CEASE-N
Sox right-hander says confidence at all-time high after dominant outing
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 allowed one run, struck out eight and walked one in4 „ innings in an intrasquad game Thursday.