The Chicago White Sox have had a number of quality young arms come up the last few years, and it appears they have another one in Andre Rienzo. Rienzo, 24, has a bright future with the White Sox if his early play with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League is any indication.
In two AFL starts, Rienzo has yet to yield an earned run, striking out 10 and walking three in seven innings of work. His stuff is better than his impressive numbers suggest.
Rienzo’s fastball is routinely clocked in the mid-90s, and his cutter breaks in hard on right-handed hitters. At 6'3" and 160 pounds, he does not look intimidating, but he is quite effective with his power pitches.
Phil Rogers from the Chicago Tribune noted Saturday that his breaking ball needs some work. Expect improvement there when White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper begins working with him in earnest during spring training.
To say that Rienzo, who finished the 2012 season at Triple-A Charlotte, has dominated hitters in the AFL would be an understatement. At one point, he struck out five in a row last Thursday in convincing fashion.
It must be noted that Rienzo, a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, has had some setbacks in his young career.
He has already violated MLB’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended 50 games at the beginning of the 2012 campaign, but he has rebounded to garner national attention.
Do you get caught up in the hype surrounding prospects like Rienzo?
Indeed, Rienzo is feeling the love, but recognition naturally leads to expectations, and the White Sox need Rienzo to deliver on his promise.
If White Sox general manager Kenny Williams believes he can go into spring training with two or three legitimate contenders to fill out the bottom of the rotation, he may not have to bring in a starting pitcher via free agency.
That, in turn, could allow Williams to pick up Gavin Floyd’s option ($9.5 million) and/or bring back free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, increasing the chances the White Sox will compete for the AL Central division title in 2013.
The White Sox hope Rienzo can follow in the footsteps of Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago.
They are a few of the home-grown pitchers the team has brought up recently who have had immediate impacts at the big league level.
If his pitching can continue to impress in the AFL, expect Rienzo to continue that trend.