White Sox: Dylan Cease’s 2021 debut is night and day from his 2020 year

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Dylan Cease has been called the X-factor for the 2021 Chicago White Sox. This title comes with good reason. The 26-year old right-hander’s performance this season will dictate if the White Sox rotation is just good or championship caliber.

That is a lot of pressure for someone with only 26 major league starts under his belt. Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa has yet to confirm that Cease will be the fourth starter. That only adds to that pressure. Pressure creates diamonds and on Monday it created a gem.

Dylan Cease made his highly anticipated Cactus League debut against his former organization in the Chicago Cubs. He made an excellent first impression on his new manager throwing three scoreless innings. He was efficient all afternoon as he only allowing one baserunner to reach via a base hit in the third. He punched out a pair of hitters and showed off the dominating stuff that made him a top prospect in the organization.

He got All-Star catcher Wilson Contreras to strike out on a nasty curveball. It looked like Cease had that pitch on a string as it dropped out of the zone. No Cubs player was able to make hard contact either as Cease induced easy outs throughout his near-perfect three innings of work.

The game served as a big confidence booster for Cease who talked about it after the game.

"“It’s always encouraging to see results and see the swing and misses and the soft contact. That is only going to feed into my confidence, but at the end of the day, I know there’s still a lot of work to be done.”"

The most promising sign was his command. He did not walk a single batter and he peppered the strike zone.  This is the new and improved Dylan Cease. Throwing more strikes has been an emphasis for Cease all off-season. He has been working with new pitching coach Ethan Katz.

Katz worked his magic on Lucas Giolito and turned him into the elite pitcher we see today. Like Cease, Giolito struggled during his first full season. Giolito had the worst ERA in baseball before going back to Katz for tutelage. He then turned into an All-Star the following year and is now the ace of the staff. Cease has the tools to follow Giolito’s blueprint to success.

Both of his catchers have been raving about him. Jonathan Lucroy called his stuff “devastating” while Yasmani Grandal predicted that Cease “could possibly be a Cy Young winner.”

Cease’s first two season’s in the major leagues have been a mixed bag filled with walks, jams, and home runs. He has also shown flashes of excellence. Despite a 5.79 ERA in 2019, he struck out ten batters per nine innings. He lowered his ERA to 4.01 the following season but was still inconsistent on the mound.

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The White Sox did not trust him enough to give him the start in their do-or-die elimination game against Oakland in the postseason. Instead, they opted for the rookie, Dane Dunning, who is no longer with the team. Cease knows he is an X-factor this season and is ready to take the next step.

"“I want to be a valuable member of the team. I know that starts with me throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys. That’s my main focus. Yeah, I definitely want to earn that spot, and that’s my intention.”"

If the two spots in the rotation are truly up for grabs then Cease just took the first step in planting a flag in one of them.