Working toward full health, Gio Gonzalez loves what he sees from White Sox pitchers

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The two Gios haven't been seen during Cactus League play yet.

Well, Lucas Giolito's first spring outing is coming Friday when the White Sox take on the Cubs. But what about Gio Gonzalez?

Dealing with shoulder soreness since the start of camp, Gonzalez is working his way back to full health, if slowly.

"This is a good time to kind of get to know myself in a different way, get myself ready, taking the slow steps to try to get yourself healthy, giving yourself a chance to get out there the way they need you, not the way you need yourself," Gonzalez told reporters, including Our Chuck Garfien, Monday in Arizona. "It's one of those things where it's not getting going, it's staying there. I don't want to get going and then take three, four steps back and delay it.

"This is good progress. We're making strides forward instead of backward. We haven't had a setback yet, so that's huge. If I can break out of camp with at least a couple innings under our belt, I can get going from there."

Gonzalez's presence in the White Sox rotation is important, brought in to provide some veteran stability at the back end of the starting staff after the South Siders suffered through a parade of ineffective options to fill out the rotation last season.

While his shoulder is providing some mystery at this stage of spring training, he seems to have a strong grasp on his role as one of the new veterans on the staff, along with fellow winter addition Dallas Keuchel.

The White Sox have a fleet of powerful young arms, guys like Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez, who the team believes all have top-of-the-rotation potential. But they have to realize that potential first. Gonzalez sees it as part of he and Keuchel's jobs to help with that process.

"The young guys are what's going to get you to the next level. Guys of my stature are helping them, guiding them to that next level," Gonzalez said. "We have such great talent, and it's just helping them expose that talent and pitch at ease without thinking the world's on your shoulders.

"Guys like myself, guys like Keuchel are helping in other ways, not giving them that full amount of pressure and helping them focus on the task at hand. Just go out there and let them pitch their way and show the world how great they can be and they will be. Those are things that we have to do as a veteran staff. Veteran guys like me and Keuchel are just letting guys be themselves. 'Be who you are, be what makes you comfortable. And at the same time, be confident.' We've got to let them know that their stuff plays at this level and there's a reason why they're in that starting five."

That starting five has been the subject of much discussion in the lead up to the 2020 season, fans curious if it will be able to emerge as a strength during a chase for the franchise's first playoff berth in more than a decade. Certainly Cease and Lopez loom as intriguing question marks as they look to change the ugly numbers they posted in 2019. Kopech's return from Tommy John surgery seems to be going according to plan, but will he be the same pitcher who was promised prior to the procedure?

Gonzalez and Keuchel can provide the dependability their track records say they are able to deliver, but they'll need to help the younger guys along, too, if the White Sox are going to do what they look capable of doing on paper.

"If you want to make big games possible, they're going to be the guys that they're going to put on the mound to get us into those big games," Gonzalez said. "I look at it like this: All these guys want to fight to get that ball and pitch Game 7 or the first game of the playoffs. Whatever route we want to go, these are the guys you're going to rely on the most. The last thing they need is that extra pressure to go out there and try to pitch.

"Teams that want it are going to show you. They're going to battle their asses off and compete at the highest level. And I think we have the rotation to do it, from what I've seen in spring training. ... The rotation that we have, we have such guys that could help lead this team to the promised land. That's where we're headed. That's our mentality all of spring training.

"Either you want it or you don't. And we all want it. So let's compete to do it."

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