Dylan Cease says last year with White Sox ‘wasn’t enjoyable in really any way’

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CHICAGO (AP) — Dylan Cease said his final season with the Chicago White Sox “wasn’t enjoyable in really any way.” The ace right-hander had a tough year, and the team struggled.

He’s having a much better time with the San Diego Padres.

“It’s definitely really exciting coming to the ballpark,” Cease said. “Again with the Sox though, I mean, I really felt like we had that talent. We just didn’t put it together.”

Cease is back in Chicago this week for a three-game series against the Cubs. The Padres also play the White Sox this season, but the three-game set is at San Diego in September.

The 28-year-old Cease was selected by the Cubs in the sixth round of the 2014 amateur draft. He starts the series finale at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

“It’s always good to come back,” he said before San Diego’s 6-3 victory in the opener on Monday night. “Obviously I don’t have quite as much history with the Cubs, but I enjoy Wrigley. I enjoy Chicago.”

The White Sox acquired Cease and slugger Eloy Jiménez as part of a blockbuster trade with the Cubs in July 2017 for veteran pitcher Jose Quintana. Cease and Jiménez became part of a promising young core on the South Side, but the team quickly fell apart after making the playoffs in 2020 and 2021.

Cease was one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2022, going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA in 32 starts. He had a career-best 227 strikeouts in 184 innings and finished second in the AL Cy Young Award race.

But his ERA ballooned to 4.58 in a career-high 33 starts last year, and the White Sox finished with a 61-101 record.

“I still think that in the minds of a lot of people we had a really good chance to compete,” Cease said. “I think we feel like we had a good chance to compete and we just didn’t put it together. We had a really bad year and it obviously kind of led to the need to kind of redo everything.”

After months of rumors and speculation, Cease was traded to San Diego in March for reliever Steven Wilson and three prospects: right-handers Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte, and outfielder Samuel Zavala. Cease quickly jumped on a plane and joined his new team in South Korea.

With Cease pitching for the Padres, the White Sox dropped 22 of their first 25 games this season.

“Baseball’s one of those games where anything can happen, and funky things can happen,” Cease said. “For all we know, they’ll go on a nice little win streak and kind of even that out. But yeah, it’s a little bit surprising.”

Cease has made a smooth transition to his new surroundings. He is 4-2 with a 2.55 ERA in seven starts this season. He also has 48 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings, looking more like the pitcher he was two years ago.

Cease said his good numbers so far are the result of adjustments he started making last year.

“Basically just figuring out how to stay closed,” he said. “I feel like, for me anyways, the most difficult thing for pitching is staying closed because it is such a rotational movement.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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