Ervin Santana's team debut for the Chicago White Sox left many fans less optimistic about his prospects to revive a struggling starting rotation.
The Tampa Bay Rays reached Santana for seven runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday, belting three home runs.
Scheduled to get the call in Monday's series opener against the visiting Kansas City Royals, Santana knows he only can improve, perhaps behind a tweak in the right direction.
"I feel great in the bullpen when I was warming up," Santana told reporters after the Rays game. "And then when I get to the mound, I guess I changed my delivery, so I guess that was the issue."
Santana (0-1, 17.18 ERA) averaged 90-91 mph with his fastball on Tuesday and was unable to gain much leverage with his off-speed assortment. Tampa Bay had a mere four swinging strikes.
After missing most of the 2018 season with a finger injury as a Minnesota Twin, Santana, 36, signed a $4.3 million contract with the White Sox in late February.
He spent the beginning of the season in extended spring training, but the organization opted against giving him a tune-up start at Triple-A Charlotte.
The pitching woes have persisted for much of the staff in the first two-plus weeks of the season. The White Sox scuffled on the mound while losing the final five games of their inaugural, six-game homestand, including three to the Rays.
"We're having a little bit of trouble commanding the strike zone," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "When we fall behind a lot, especially in relief, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. These guys are young, but that to me doesn't matter."
On the bright side, the White Sox took two of three games on the road from the New Yankees, including a 5-2 victory on Sunday powered by Tim Anderson's grand slam.
Anderson continues to lead the majors with a .429 batting average.
Monday's game marks the beginning of a 10-game road trip for the Royals, who swept a three-game weekend series against the reigning American League Central champion Cleveland Indians, including a walk-off 9-8 victory on Hunter Dozier's single on Sunday.
Right-hander Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 15.00 ERA) is set to start for Kansas City. He scattered five runs and six hits over three innings in a Wednesday start against the Seattle Mariners, walking two in a no-decision.
The Mariners entered Fillmyer's start on a hot offensive stretch, and Fillmyer admitted to allowing that success to impact his mental approach to the game.
"Yeah, I think anytime you run into a hot team, you want to be careful with some guys," Fillmyer said. "Careful by maybe staying away from them in certain spots on the plate. But, just trying to be too perfect is something where you're trying to make every pitch look like the best pitch.
"So, that's all it is ... just trying to be too perfect. ... But if I keep it simple, stay aggressive, learn from their swings, I'll be fine."
The Royals hope to have starting center fielder Billy Hamilton as a consistent cog in their attack during the trip. The speedster has been improving since experiencing stiffness after colliding with the outfield wall during the ninth inning of a game against the Mariners on Thursday afternoon.