Covey fans 9 after giving up leadoff homer

Rookie righty decided to 'let it go' with his best stuff

Covey fans 9 after giving up leadoff homer

CHICAGO -- Dylan Covey knew things had to change.

He was far from satisfied with an 8.28 ERA over 25 innings entering a 5-4 White Sox victory over the Padres Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. And to be honest, the rookie right-hander was done pitching to contact as he had done too often in his first five starts.

Saturday marked the time to "let it go" with his best stuff, according to Covey, a philosophy resulting in a career-high nine strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings and 91 pitches.

"Yeah, I was getting tired of getting beat with my mediocre stuff," said Covey, who has provided honest assessments of his work since arriving with the White Sox as a Rule 5 pick from Oakland. "So I went out there and gave it all I had with every pitch. I would have liked to go deeper, but the pitch count was climbing a little bit.

"My last few outings, I felt like it was just mediocre pitches. Pitches that didn't have conviction behind them, hanging breaking balls, stuff like that. Today everything was a little bit more sharp, and I was able to bury the breaking balls in the dirt."

San Diego did connect for five hits and three runs off Covey, along with his third straight start allowing two or more home runs. But he only walked two to go with the nine whiffs, after coming into Saturday's game with 11 strikeouts and 11 walks overall.

Manuel Margot connected on a first pitch home run off Covey, marking the Padres' second straight night with a leadoff blast on the first pitch. That moment might have been the best thing imaginable for Covey and his more forceful attitude.

"Going into that game, I was thinking I'm just going to leave it all out there," Covey said. "That first pitch kind of lit a fire underneath me, and I kind of started attacking guys right after that."

"He had better stuff than I've seen in his last few outings," said Padres manager Andy Green of Covey. "He threw the ball relatively well, but we had him out by the fifth inning."

Carrying this point of success over to his next start against Seattle on Thursday becomes the next key step for Covey. But on this night, the 25-year-old showed a little bit more of what the White Sox originally liked about him.

"We hope it's something that he can build on," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "But we'll see. It's one of those things where, again, it's a work in progress and hopefully it's something good and positive."

"Everything was a little bit sharper and crisper," Covey said. "Just need to learn from this and carry this over into my next outing and try to go a little bit deeper next time."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.