White Sox tab Lucas Giolito as Opening Day starter for second straight year

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Vinnie Duber
·4 min read
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Lucas Giolito gets second straight Opening Day nod for Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

No surprise.

As expected, Lucas Giolito will be the White Sox starting pitcher when they open the regular season April 1 against the Los Angeles Angels.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa made the announcement Monday just a few days after teasing that it was coming soon.

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"We are going with Gio, as you expected," La Russa said. "I think Gio has earned that spot based on his performance with our club.

"Lucas has been everything you look for. ... He’s a worker between starts, he’s a teammate, he communicates, he goes out there with his arsenal, he has several ways to get a guy out, which is essential for a starting pitcher. His performance in the first game of the playoffs (last year) is all you need to know how ready he is to compete."

Giolito is the ace of the South Side staff and seemed the obvious choice to start on Opening Day, just as he did last season when he threw the first pitch of the White Sox shortened 2020 campaign against the division-rival Minnesota Twins.

Giolito is the first White Sox pitcher to make consecutive Opening Day starts since Chris Sale in 2013 and 2014, and the first White Sox right-hander to do so since Jaime Navarro in 1997 and 1998.

"I feel like I've earned this spot over the last couple years," Giolito said. "I think I've proven I'm one of the top starters in this league. ... But there's so many things I can improve upon, and that's the goal, is to keep improving. I'm never going to be complacent with where I'm at.

"It's obviously an honor to be named Opening Day starter for this season. I'm going to really appreciate that, I'm not taking it for granted. Hopefully we have a great year this year, and then next year, I'm going to do everything I can to earn that role again."

La Russa wasn't short on options, with a couple other Cy Young types in the White Sox rotation. Dallas Keuchel has a Cy Young Award and a World Series ring on his resume. Lance Lynn has won it all, too, and has been one of baseball's finest starting pitchers the past two seasons.

But Giolito, as La Russa pointed out Monday, has earned this status. The manager confirmed that Keuchel and Lynn will go second and third, respectively, after Giolito on Opening Day.

One of the headlining players acquired in the trades that launched the White Sox rebuilding project in 2016, Giolito has evolved from top ranked prospect to struggling big leaguer to All-Star arm to one of the best pitchers in the game. He rejuvenated his career and earned a trip to the Midsummer Classic in 2019 before throwing a no-hitter last summer and dominating in the franchise's first playoff game in a dozen years last fall, taking a perfect-game bid into the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics.

Now, one of the players talking the most about the team's legitimate World Series expectations for 2021, he'll be the first one to take the ball in what could be a special season on the South Side.

"I think it makes it more fun, man," Giolito said. "Being the Opening Day starter is a definite honor, but being the Opening Day starter of a team that has a chance at contending for a World Series, it just makes it more important, more fun."

Giolito has also put in the work to become a team leader, and La Russa cited the intangible qualities as being as important to the role of Opening Day starter as the ones that show up on the back of the baseball card. That includes Giolito's own admission of how much getting the first start of the season means to him.

"It is a tremendous honor, a tremendous responsibility. We all know it is," La Russa said. "And if the pitcher thinks, 'Hey, what's the big deal? It's just another game,' it's, 'Oops, we've got the wrong guy.' It goes with accountability and responsibility. ... Lucas' comments were what you'd expect and what we need."

As representative of the progress the White Sox have made going from rebuilders to contenders as anyone on the roster, it's only fitting — if not at all surprising — that Giolito be the guy to make the start on Opening Day.

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