Ah, to be a Chicago White Sox pitching prospect.
Just ask Andre Rienzo. It can’t be exactly a whole lot of fun pitching for a team that doesn’t offer many chances at victory, although that doesn’t really mean a whole lot from a talent evaluation standpoint. And though the right-hander came out of his latest turn still looking for his first MLB victory, it’d be fair to say that he left only a positive impression on the Pale Hose.
It might seem like a bit of a weird thing to say about a player who has now posted three quality starts in his first four big league outings, but there’s a pretty good argument that Thursday was the first time the White Sox saw the full package of what he can bring to the table.
In this case, it was six innings of two-run (one earned) ball on four hits, with a pair of strikeouts mixed in against the Minnesota Twins.
A quality start to be sure, and one eventually spoiled for the 25-year old (thanks, Nate Jones); and while his two Ks were the lowest total in any of his four starts, Rienzo was able to avoid handing out a free pass for the first time in his young big league career, an important step that can’t be understated here.
See, while the youngster did show some strikeout ability in the minors, the biggest knock on him as a potential starter was whether he’d be able to consistently throw strikes, and if he had the ability adjust when his mid-90s stuff didn’t work for him.
On Thursday, he did both, attacking batters with first strikes at 60.9 percent, with 55.4 percent of his offerings staying within the strike zone — a season-high by a wide margin. As a result, he generated contact at 84.6 percent (also a season-high), which factored directly into his excellent 1.83 GB/FB ratio for the game.
No, he didn’t get as many whiffs, but on this day, Rienzo learned to pitch without them. Considering the fact that he’d walked no fewer than three batters (and a whopping five in his last turn), this was surely the major step forward that the White Sox wanted to see.
After all, it’s all about a learning process when prospects first arrive in the majors, and if nothing else, Rienzo has shown that he is ahead of the curve right now.