Dylan Cease — back in Chicago with the Padres — says last year with the White Sox ‘wasn’t enjoyable in really any way’

CHICAGO — Dylan Cease initially thought of the logistics after being traded from the Chicago White Sox to the San Diego Padres.

After all, the Padres were on their way to South Korea to open the season in March against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander figured it out, just like he has on the mound during a bounce-back season with the Padres.

Cease had a 2.20 ERA in 2022, finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting, but his ERA climbed to 4.58 last season with the Sox. Now everything’s clicking again: He’s 4-2 with a 2.55 ERA ahead of Wednesday’s start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Cease said the success is a continuation of a process he started in 2023.

“It kind of took me a full year to figure out what works for me,” he told reporters Monday at Wrigley Field. “That’s baseball sometimes. We’re not robots out there. Sometimes mechanical cues and feels can take some time.

“Last year wasn’t enjoyable really in any way, but I can sit here now and say I got a lot out of it. I learned kind of what doesn’t work and got back to hopefully now what is working.”

Cease is back in Chicago for the first time since the March 13 deal that sent him to San Diego for minor league pitchers Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte, minor league outfielder Samuel Zavala and major league reliever Steven Wilson.

Cease has kept up with a number of his former teammates.

He said of the historically bad start for the Sox: “I think they have more talent than that, for sure. Baseball is one of those games where anything can happen, funky things can happen. For all we know, they’ll go on a nice little win streak and kind of even that out.”

Cease has been impressed with pitcher Garrett Crochet, who moved from the bullpen to the rotation.

“Garrett’s looked great, especially coming out hot,” Cease said. “He’s throwing 98 (mph), he’s nasty. I have a lot of faith in Garrett. I really do think he’s going to be an ace for a long time.”

Cease had that role the last few years with the Sox. Acquired from the Cubs in a 2017 trade, Cease was 43-35 with a 3.83 ERA and 792 strikeouts over five seasons on the South Side. He thanked pitching coach Ethan Katz for aiding in his progression.

“I loved working with Ethan,” Cease said. “I’ve also loved working with (Padres pitching coach) Ruben (Niebla). Ethan, before I got (to San Diego), was the best coach I ever had. I credit him with a lot of the strides I made in my career.

“It goes from mechanical and physical to how to actually pitch people to teaching me sequencing and, ‘Hey, this was a mistake and here’s why.’ Little things like that. I regard him as one of the best coaches in the big leagues. But fortunately, I regard Ruben as that also. I get back-to-back stud coaches, which is fantastic for me.”

Cease’s top season with the Sox was 2022, when he went 14-8 with 227 strikeouts in 32 starts. He had 212 strikeouts last season while going 7-9 in 33 starts.

It was a rough year overall for the Sox, who finished fourth in the American League Central at 61-101.

“Last year, in the minds of a lot of people, we had a really good chance to compete,” Cease said. “And we just didn’t put it together. We had a really bad year. It led to the need to kind of redo everything.

“We just didn’t play well. It comes down to, did you throw the ball, did you throw strikes, did you field the ball, did you control the zone, did you hit? And in a lot of ways, we just didn’t do a lot of things well in those areas.”

The Padres had high expectations in 2023 as well but finished third in the National League West at 82-80 and missed the playoffs.

In the spring they added Cease, who is embracing the opportunity.

“It’s nice going into every game and feeling, not only competitive, but like you have a very good opportunity to win that game,” he said. “We have an abundance of talent and we play well in a lot of areas of the game. It’s really exciting to come to the ballpark.

“Again with the Sox, though, I really feel like we had that talent. We just didn’t put it together.”