Dylan Cease shows off his stuff and proves he's ready for major league challenge

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Dylan Cease is, in fact, ready for the major leagues.

He and the White Sox are both hoping that his big league debut won’t go down as the finest start he ever makes. But he did a fine job backing up the belief he and the team expressed of late, that he was ready for the challenges of the majors, grabbing the win with five innings of work in his debut Wednesday.

Though he came out with a blazing fastball that almost touched 100 miles per hour, he had a rough first inning, following up two quick outs with three walks, a hit batter and a two-run single that put his team in an early hole. He threw more than 30 pitches before recording three outs.

But the way he threw after that is what impressed the White Sox. His final four innings of work featured just one run, three hits, one walk and six strikeouts. Turning those first-inning lemons (certainly it could’ve been worse than just two runs with all those base runners) into enough lemonade to earn his first big league victory in his first big league start? That’ll do.

“It was a good first start,” Cease said after the game. “Obviously the command wasn't the best, but I'll take a win any time. … Especially after making adjustments that first inning and getting through five, it gives me a lot of confidence.”

“His poise,” catcher James McCann said. “Hitting a guy, walking two batters and then giving up a base hit in the first inning, and bouncing back and giving himself a chance to get through five and pick up that win. That maturity. It’s not typical of a young kid like him to have that kind of maturity.”

Cease’s arrival sparked the same type of atmosphere Guaranteed Rate Field had last August, when Michael Kopech reached the major leagues. Fans were pumped, crowding around the bullpen during Cease’s pregame warmups. The buzz was noticeably different as the White Sox took the field to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” And when Cease strolled to the dugout after the top of the fifth inning, there was quite an ovation.

White Sox fans know what Cease’s arrival means for the future of this team, another piece of the rebuilding core reaching the major leagues. It’s taken a good deal of patience, but that core is assembling before fans’ eyes on the South Side. And there will be months left to watch it develop in 2019 before potentially watching it open the contention window in 2020.

Cease figures to be a big part of all that, and so getting him here is an important step forward in the ongoing process. But it is equally important to note that Cease has not arrived as a finished product. As good as he was during a dominant 2018 campaign in the minor leagues, there’s development still to go. Wednesday’s start showed that as much as it showed he’s ready for the majors.

This was, after all, the Detroit Tigers, one of baseball’s worst offensive teams who entered with the lowest team batting average in the game. The first inning went sideway on Cease after two batters, and the Tigers scored two runs. A different lineup might have produced a more crooked number.

But much like this season for the White Sox in general, the positives were too glaring to ignore.

The White Sox have been saying for days that Cease is ready. Cease, like all the uber-confident White Sox prospects, had said he was ready, even before news of his promotion came Sunday.

“There really wasn't too much talk about that even,” Cease said of getting brought up to the bigs. “It was more just come here and execute my pitches and learn and grow. I think they're doing a really good job of not putting too much pressure on me with anything and letting me get out there and adjust to things.”

Whether his next start comes in Oakland or Kansas City, it will come on the White Sox 10-game road trip to open the second half. And then there will be another Cease start five days after that. And another five days after that. And so on.

What we learned Wednesday is that Cease has big league stuff. We learned he’s got a big league demeanor. We learned he’s going to play a big role in this team’s continued hurtling toward contention mode.

And this was just Day 1.

So did Cease reinforce the team’s belief that he was ready for this?

“I believe so,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And he can only get better.”

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