Early Friday afternoon, Double-A Birmingham manager Ryan Newman broke the news to Dylan Cease that the pitcher was headed to this year's Futures Game. A few hours later, the hurler showed why he was given such an honor with a stellar performance.
The fourth-ranked White Sox prospect tossed five scoreless innings, yielding two hits and three walks while striking out nine in the Barons' 3-1 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts at AT&T Field. Cease (1-0) picked up his first win in three tries in the Southern League.
Gameday box score
"He was dominant. He really was," Newman said. "For the most part, he was around the zone. His misses were awful close. They could have gone either way. He did a good job. Unfortunately, his pitch count got up there -- a lot of three-ball counts -- but he kept us right there in the game and was able to come away with his first win here in Double-A."
Even though Cease has only been with Birmingham for a few weeks, Newman has seen enough to understand why he will join teammate Luis Alexander Basabe in representing the Chicago organization on July 15 at the prospect showcase at Nationals Park.
"Anytime you get to tell someone he's going to the Futures Game and then later that day get to watch him get his first Double-A win, that's exciting for everyone," the skipper said. "He's a true competitor. I mean, this kid competes and he goes after everybody and he believes in his stuff, which he should, because it's electric."
The 22-year-old right-hander started the year with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, where he posted a 9-2 record, 2.89 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 13 starts. In 71 2/3 innings, he fanned a Carolina League-best 82 and walked 28. MLB.com's No. 40 overall prospect was promoted on June 21, and he's since allowed six earned runs over 16 2/3 frames.
Back on the bump after seven innings of one-run ball in his last start, Cease threw 64 of a season-high 111 pitches for strikes. Against 20 batters, the Georgia native induced four groundouts and one flyout.
The Lookouts put the pressure on in the first inning when seventh-ranked Twins prospect Brent Rooker worked a one-out walk and Zander Wiel poked a two-out single. Cease escaped trouble by getting Mitchell Kranson to bounce out to first.
After a perfect second, he shrugged off a walk in each of the next two frames. Despite issuing the free passes and falling into seven other three-ball counts, Cease didn't have to throw too many high-stress pitches, according to his manager.
"Aside from the walks, it was an outstanding outing for him," Newman said. "He'd love to get those three walks back. ... But this kid, he can dominate through an inning. He may lose somebody and walk them, but the next three guys behind him should watch out, because [Cease] is coming after them."
He began the fifth by whiffing Jimmy Kerrigan and Ryan Walker before left-handed hitting No. 20 Twins prospect Luis Arraez slapped an opposite-field single. The 2014 sixth-round pick then faced off against Rooker, whiffing him to end a six-pitch at-bat.
With the five scoreless frames under his belt, Cease trimmed his ERA between the two levels to 2.95. Working in his second full season, he's 11th in the Minors with 105 strikeouts and second in the organization behind second-ranked Michael Kopech. Over 130 innings since coming to the White Sox from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade last summer, Cease holds a 3.25 ERA.
"When you have an arsenal of pitches that he has and you can control them in the zone, you can work out of jams and with baserunners on, and that's exactly what he did," Newman said. "This kid is electric. Dylan's going to be fun to watch for years to come. And we're just getting a taste of it here in Birmingham."
His batterymate, No. 8 White Sox prospect Zack Collins, connected on a three-run dinger in the first for his 11th homer.