The right-hander, who is among a group of young pitchers that will be considered for a rotation spot in the event Chicago doesn't add a starter in the offseason, made his home debut Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
It was a rocky affair in which the 25-year-old walked five and gave up four runs on two home runs in the fourth inning, but he was otherwise unscored upon in his other 4⅓ innings of work. Four relievers held the Twins in check, and the White Sox rallied for a 5-4 victory.
“I tried to focus on some things today and it didn’t happen,” Rienzo said. “We had two games last night, and I tried to be out there for a long time on the mound to help out the bullpen. I battle as hard as I can, but, unfortunately, my control today wasn’t that good. But I’m glad the team won. It’s important the team wins, and I’m glad that happened.”
After three starts, Rienzo already has an alarming 11 walks in 18⅓ innings, with the control issue not uncommon among young pitchers trying to find their way in the major leagues.
“I don't know if it's a worry,” manager Robin Ventura said. “For a guy being up here for the first time, you wish it wasn't there, but that's part of learning how to pitch up here. Hitters are better, they can work you around a little bit, and if you leave one over the plate, they'll make you pay for it. It's a learning process for them, but seeing what he has, it's nice to see.”
Addison Reed, who recorded his 28th save when Alejandro De Aza hauled in Oswaldo Arcia’s line drive at the base of the left-field wall, knows what it’s like to be a young pitcher adjusting to the major league game, as Rienzo is doing now.
“Just by watching him, I think he’s doing a great job,” Reed said. “He doesn’t seem like he’s nervous or anything. He’s going after the hitters. I love his energy on the mound. He gets pumped up when someone makes a good play. He’s doing well and I would say he’s pretty comfortable. He seems comfortable in here and out there. He just has to keep going out there and getting more experience.”
Despite the control issues, Rienzo does show a certain level of fearlessness on the mound. It did backfire a bit when a tantalizing curveball to Justin Morneau was crushed for a three-run home run, and Arcia laid into a grooved fastball for an added a solo shot.
“You'd rather have a guy like that than a guy that's scared to throw it over the plate,” Ventura said. “That's not to say he's going to throw it down the middle, but it looks good. He'll continue to hopefully progress.”
Rienzo received a treat after the game when he found out that his brother had made a surprise trip from Brazil to see him pitch Saturday.
“The first time here, yeah,” Rienzo said. “Oh man, I want to be better because my family is here. Next time.”
That next time will come Friday against the same Twins team, with the scene shifting to Minneapolis.
He plans to work on his control issues, but it isn’t just something that started when he made his big league debut on July 30. In his past two starts at Triple-A Charlotte, Rienzo walked a combined 10 batters. In the four starts before that, though, he averaged one walk a game.
“I showed better control there, and I hope I can get back to those good, good times,” Rienzo said. “I’ll just keep working, man. Bad games make you work harder for the next time, and that game there will for sure make me work harder for the next one.”
And if his brother is able to stay longer, Rienzo might have even more of an edge about him.
“I didn’t know he was here,” Rienzo said. “The security just came out and said I had some guy who wanted to talk to me from Brazil. I said 'OK.' And in the time I go [out there], it was my brother and I said, 'Hey!' It’s crazy.”