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White Sox’ Dylan Cease trying to stay level-headed through frustrating start

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NEW YORK – Dylan Cease takes a 4.63 record into his major league high 14th start against the Marlins Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field. That’s more than double the 2.20 ERA he posted when he finished second in American League Cy Young voting last season, and Ceas’s WHIP and walks and strikeouts per nine innings are also off.

“I’ve definitely had some very frustrating moments with it, but I try to be level headed,” Cease told the Sun-Times Thursday. “I haven’t pitched to how I want to but we still have some time to turn that around.”

High pitch counts have equated to Cease averaging 5 1/3 innings per start, but he averaged 5 23 innings last season while allowing a major league high 78 walks. His stuff was so good, the walks didn’t hurt that much. But this season he’s walking batters at a slightly higher rate, 4.2 per nine innings.

And how to fix that?

“Just trying to focus on my cues, making mechanical adjustments, making sure I’m staying closed, getting pitches where I need to get them,” Cease said.

“If I execute pitches I’m going to go deeper in the game. If I’m not … just a lot of wasted pitches, you know?”

Cease gave up one run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts going 5 1/3 innings in a 2-1 Sox win against the Tigers in his last start. In the start before that at Detroit, he needed 102 pitches to get through four innings, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out eight.

“It’s a challenging game and if you’re not at the peak of what you’re doing you better be working at it,” Cease said. “It’s a very humbling game.”

Streakers

Right-handers Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton entered Thursday’s scheduled doubleheader with consecutive appearances streaks of 14 and 13 games, respectively. Both of them credit the training staff headed by James Kruk for playing a role.

Graveman said the biggest thing for him is that he’s “feeling good and healthy” right now after working through soreness earlier in the season.

“I think we have one of the better training staffs in the league,” Graveman said.

“We have a great training staff here, it’s amazing,” Middleton said. “They’re wonderful. They cater to you and what you want to do, not always about what they want to do.”

Middleton also credits pitching coach Ethan Katz with encouraging him to use his slider more.

“I was a guy who heavily relied on my fastball before,” Middleton, a 29-year-old signed as a non-roster invitee to spring training. “Since I got here and got with Ethan I started mixing everything up,” Middleton said. “At times in my career I’ve been really good and at times I’ve been really bad. Just figuring out what was going wrong. A lot of it was me throwing fastballs in hitter’s counts.”



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