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Dylan Cease blocked out the trade-talk noise

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Spring training got underway Wednesday as pitchers and catchers reported to Chicago White Sox camp.

Starter Dylan Cease — whose name came up countless times in trade speculation throughout the offseason — was among the group participating in drills such as charging and fielding a bunt on the backfields at Camelback Ranch.

“I don’t know if ‘surprised’ (to still be with the Sox) is the right word,” Cease said of the unique offseason after Wednesday’s workout. “I really wasn’t looking at it with a whole lot of expectation.

“For a while it did look like (a trade) was going to happen. I kind of assumed it. But when it didn’t, I was like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ ”

Cease followed the trade talks just like everyone else.

“A lot of texts (from friends and family) saying, ‘I saw this report,’ ”  Cease said. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I saw it too.’

“But for the most part, I just focused on getting ready. At the end of the day, I just want to perform.”

When he’s on, Cease is among the top pitchers in the game. He finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2022, going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 32 starts. He went 7-9 in 2023 with a 4.58 ERA but finished fifth in the AL with 214 strikeouts while tying for the league lead with 33 starts.

White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease, center, celebrates a 7-5 win over the Tigers on July 3, 2019, at Guaranteed Rate Field.(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease, center, celebrates a 7-5 win over the Tigers on July 3, 2019, at Guaranteed Rate Field. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Cease, 28, is under team control for this season and next. He has been dependable, making at least 32 starts each of the last three years. And he has had more than 200 strikeouts in that time frame.

“The reason he’s in that position is because he’s really good and teams want him,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “And that (trade talk) doesn’t faze him. He’s here with us. He’s our opening-day starter. If something comes up that benefits both sides, and our front office is excited about it, he’ll do it. If not, he’s our opening-day starter.

“Right now, he’s here. He’s a White Sox. And he puts a smile on my face every time I see him out there. That’s where we’re at.”

Cease’s mindset this offseason was focused on “getting my body ready.”

“I kind of followed the reports and I assumed they were accurate,” he said. “I tried to just treat it like I would any other offseason. There was definitely a lot of noise, but at the end of the day, I just want to perform. So the more I can focus on what I’ve got to do, that’s all that matters.”

Grifol and general manager Chris Getz have praised Cease’s ability to block out that noise.

“You can only focus on so much,” Cease said. “And the more you can focus on what really matters, that’s what’s important. Either way, I’m grateful to be a Major League Baseball player. So whether I’m here or somewhere else, I’m going to try to make the most of the opportunity and that’s all that really matters.”

In previous conversations, Cease said Getz let him know that if anything was imminent, the pitcher would get a heads up.

“I think with those things, it can be a last-minute thing sometimes,” Cease said. “I feel like it’s pretty hard to give too much of a notice, but he told me he would let me know.”

Asked by reporters Monday, Getz said: “At this point, I expect him to be our opening-day starter.

“He’s had an awesome offseason. I’ve been in contact with him regularly and I know his name has been out there publicly with potential trades, and unsurprisingly it hasn’t affected him. He’s so professional and just focused on the task at hand. I certainly feel like he’s well-positioned to have an excellent year.”

Grifol first mentioned handing Cease the ball for the season opener while at an event in Chicago in late January. The manager chuckled when he was told the opening-day starter’s announcement had to be among the earliest in team history.

“It’s great,” Cease said of the nod. “I still feel like it’s something I have to earn, and I’m not really thinking that far ahead yet. It’s definitely funny to be mentioned that early.”

He enters camp feeling “great.”

“This is the first offseason in a while where I wasn’t getting some triceps soreness and little aches,” Cease said. “I got to do a full ramp up. I hit all my numbers I wanted to hit.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot.”

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