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It's likely that using a form of the word "solid" wasn't a playful jab at his new rotation-mate Lance Lynn. But having revealed in the same conversation Saturday that his nickname for Lynn is "Tonka Truck," it's hard to be 100-percent sure.
Lynn is a big dude, the latest one of those to join a White Sox pitching staff that already included the 6-foot-6 twin towers of Lucas Giolito and Garrett Crochet. Codi Heuer's 6-foot-5, like Lynn, and Jimmy Cordero stands 6-foot-4. There's enough height among the South Side staff that newly arrived closer Liam Hendriks jokingly bemoaned that he's playing with a bunch of "Monstars."
But Lynn's size isn't what makes him the White Sox most important addition of the offseason. Indeed, Lynn does exactly what Keuchel said and solidifies a starting rotation that was the main reason for an early playoff exit in 2020.
Without a reliable third starting-pitching option to turn to in the American League Wild Card Series, the White Sox called on rookie Dane Dunning to start Game 3. He was lifted before the first inning was over, and a parade of relievers who had been outstanding during the regular season picked the worst time to lose the strike zone, bringing an abrupt finish to the franchise's first postseason trip in a dozen years.
Rick Hahn's front office swapped Dunning for one year of Lynn in a win-now December trade with the Texas Rangers. Lynn has been among baseball's finest and most durable arms the last two seasons. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote — between Keuchel and Giolito — after throwing more innings than anyone during the shortened 2020 season.
For a White Sox team craving dependability, they sure got it in Lynn, who has no plans to change his style after changing uniforms this winter.
"My plan (for this spring is the same it has been) since I was a young kid," Lynn said Saturday, "get yourself ready to throw 100 pitches Day 1, be able to throw 200 innings, strike out 200 hitters and be there every five days."
Lynn's brand of no-nonsense workmanship had him previewing arguments with his new manager and pitching coach in the hours after he was acquired, promising a fight if anyone tried to take the ball from him. That doesn't mean complete-game efforts on an every-fifth-day basis, but the White Sox feel lucky to have someone who's intent on racking up the kind of mileage Lynn did in his two seasons in Texas: 292.1 innings across 46 starts.
While Lynn brings something new to the White Sox, he won't have to introduce himself to everyone at Camelback Ranch. He's reunited with Tony La Russa, who managed the St. Louis Cardinals during Lynn's rookie season in 2011, a season that ended in a World Series championship. La Russa called on Lynn plenty during that October run, Lynn pitching in five of the seven World Series games.
"Over the years, I've learned to pay attention to the guys in player development," La Russa explained when asked about Lynn on Saturday. "We had (Chris Maloney) as the manager in Triple-A (with the Cardinals in 2011), and I can remember, as Lance was getting close, we thought we could use some help. And we had three guys we were looking at, they were all real prospects. And (Maloney) was really sold on the way that Lance, when he took the mound, competed. And I think that's been his trademark.
"You can see, he goes out there and he's trying to get hitters out. ... He's an intelligent guy, and he's learned. Every year he's more of a pitcher than a thrower. He pitched the eighth inning of Game (7 in 2011), that shows you the confidence we had back then. He's gone on to (become) one of the outstanding starters in baseball."
La Russa knows what he's got in Lynn. And Lynn knows what he's got in La Russa. That's helpful, perhaps, for his new teammates, who are spending their spring adjusting to life with a new skipper.
"A lot of these guys only played for one manager," Lynn said. "You have to get to know him, you have to feel people out, and if there are questions, I’ll be there to answer and help things along.
"Tony is about one thing: getting your work in to be prepared to win right out of the gate and the get-go here. Everybody knows what he’s about and trying to do, and that’s: get your work in and be diligent, make sure you’re doing it the right way, and everything else will take care of itself."
"Everything else" means an awful lot for these White Sox, as the team has spent the early days of spring training discussing "World Series or bust" expectations. For the White Sox, that talk is legitimate. Lynn's a big reason why. He gives the South Siders a trio of aces at the front of the rotation, allowing the White Sox to go toe-to-toe with any staff in the game, particularly come October.
Lynn's done October plenty. He started his career with a ring, and he's amassed more than 50 postseason innings.
So when he says the White Sox expectations are realistic, he's speaking from experience.
"Everyone is saying it: We’re here to win a World Series, and that’s what we’re trying to do," Lynn said. "That’s why you come to spring training every year.
"Sometimes you actually have a chance, and sometimes you don’t. This year we feel like we really have a chance, so we have to do what we have to do to capitalize on that."
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