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Series Preview: Rays at White Sox

Friday night’s game is on AppleTV+

MLB: ALDS-Workouts
Chicago White Sox catcher Zack Collins (left) eats an apple
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The series against the Oakland Athletics didn’t go well. The good thing about baseball is there’s always a game tomorrow to wash the taste out of a loss. Now the Tampa Bay Rays head to Chicago to face a much tougher test in the Chicago White Sox.

Schedule

Friday 7:10 PM (AppleTV+): Drew Rasmussen vs Dylan Cease
Saturday 2:10 PM: Corey Kluber vs Michael Kopech
Sunday 2:10 PM: Ryan Yarbrough* vs Vince Velasquez

Sunday’s starter hasn’t been named, but it is the first day that Ryan Yarbrough would be eligible to return from the Injured List. It was expected to be a short stint and only miss one start, so we’ll see if that is in fact the case, but for now pencil him in.

Dylan Cease was acquired by the White Sox in the trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs. Last year was a breakout season for Cease as he posted a 3.91 ERA/3.41 FIP/3.72 xFIP over 165.2 innings in his first full major league season. He posted a 31.9% strikeout rate but walked his fair share with a 9.6% walk rate. Cease brings a high octane fastball that has averaged 96.7 mph last season. His primary breaking ball of choice is a 85.9 mph slider that he’s willing to throw to batters of both hands. The remaining 20% of his pitches are split between a 79.9 mph curveball and a 78.1 mph changeup. The changeup is very rarely thrown to a right handed batter.

Michael Kopech arrived in Chicago along with Yoan Moncada in the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. Kopech missed the 2019 and 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery before working out of the bullpen for most of the 2021 season. He threw 69.1 innings over 44 appearances that included 4 starts. He posted a 3.50 ERA/2.97 FIP/2.99 xFIP. This year he’s earned a spot in the rotation. Kopech leans on a 97.3 mph four-seam fastball throwing it nearly two-thirds of the time. As a reliever he mostly was a two pitch pitcher using a 84.1 mph slider as his secondary weapon of choice. He would very occasionally add a 78.7 mph curveball and 89.7 mph changeup. So far this season he is down about two miles per hour per pitch and hasn’t thrown the changeup, but has increased his curveball usage marginally.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox
Vince Velasquez
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Velasquez has been a frustrating pitcher throughout his major league career. Over 655.0 innings spent mostly with the Philadelphia Phillies he’s posted a 4.93 ERA/4.58 FIP/4.34 xFIP. He’s dramatically underperformed his peripherals nearly every season. His primary pitch is a 93.2 mph four-seam fastball that he throws half the time. He throws a 82.0 mph curveball, 89.0 mph changeup, and 85.0 mph slider at nearly identical rates. He will very rarely add a 92.0 mph sinker. He’ll throw all four pitches against all batters. The slider has been his most effective put away pitch.

White Sox have gotten off to an average start at the plate.

The White Sox have hit .246/.294/.414 and put up a 104 wRC+ during the first week of the season. They’ve done a great job at limiting strikeouts (17.4%) but haven’t drawn very many walks (6.4%).

Tim Anderson (276 wRC+), Andrew Vaughn (222 wRC+), andLuis Robert (158 wRC+) have done the heavy lifting offensively.

Jose Abreu (90 wRC+), Yasmani Grandal (85 wRC+), and Eloy Jiminez (87 wRC+) have gotten off to lackluster starts, but have the ability to breakout at any moment.

Rays look to get things back on track.

A delayed start to Spring Training and a number of injuries in the starting rotation have set the Rays back this week. The Rays aren’t going to jeopardize the season by overworking pitchers early in the season, but they do hope that Ryan Yarbrough is able to return this weekend.

The Rays face their first tough test against a playoff contender this weekend (and then stay in town to face the Cubs, but more on that later). Let’s hope the Rays step up their game and play up to their capabilities.

Here’s how they’ll line up in Game 1.