Dylan Cease is entering the 2020 season with plenty to prove. Considering how important he is to the future of the White Sox, it is perhaps fitting he was the first White Sox pitcher to take a mound in a spring training game.
On Saturday, Cease pitched two innings against the Cincinnati Reds as he ramps up to full strength. The most notable thing wasn't how long he pitched or what his stat line was. It was his fastball.
Cease's fastball sat mostly at 96-98 mph and topped at 99. When asked about already being at top velocity in his first spring start, Cease quipped there could be a bit more.
"We don't know if that's top velo," Cease said with a smile. "My arm feels great. My body feels great and it was coming out good."
Cease averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in the majors in 2019. In 73 innings, he threw nine pitches that were at least 99 mph, topping out at 100.1 mph, according to Baseball Savant. He was capable of throwing that hard, but didn't do it often. For Cease to be on the higher end of his average and feature a 99 mph fastball in his first pitches of Cactus League baseball might be a sign that he could have added a touch more velocity.
It's also just a two-inning spring training start, meaning Cease knew he could let fly a bit more in a shorter outing. Cease told reporters after his start he was focusing on his fastball command. He struck out three with no walks and three hits allowed.
"I was very happy with today," Cease said. "A lot of fastballs for strikes."
In his rookie season, Cease struggled with command and consistency. He had a 5.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks over 14 starts.
February baseball doesn't carry any meaning, but this is a small encouraging sign for Cease.
Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago