Rienzo aiming to impress Sox, kids in native Brazil
Righty prospect tosses scoreless inning for World Team in Futures Game
NEW YORK -- Andre Rienzo is one of the best in his sport in his native Brazil. He's never going to go by one name. Whether he realizes his Major League dreams or not, that's not going to change.
"You think of Brazil, you think soccer. And the women," Rienzo said. "You don't think about baseball."
When Rienzo talks about opening eyes, he's not just talking about scouts across the Minors. He's talking about the people back home, about kids trying to decide whether to play soccer like everyone else or give another sport a try. His introduction to baseball was natural, with two brothers who played, plus his mother, a former softball star.
If he can impress White Sox management and get to the big leagues, he might make an impression on kids in Brazil. Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, where he pitched a scoreless inning for the World Team in a 4-2 loss to Team USA, was his latest step to help both causes.
"It's the dream, to play in the big leagues," Rienzo said. "I have seven years in the Minor Leagues. The dream's not here. The dream is to be in the Majors. And I hope to help Brazil get bigger. It's another dream I have, to help Brazil and help baseball get bigger there. They have a lot of talent there, but they don't have a lot of scouts."
He helped earn Brazilian baseball some much-needed attention when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic, no-hitting the vaunted Cuban team for four innings before giving up two runs in the fifth. Brazil went winless in pool play this spring after winning its qualifier, but for a stretch, the team competed.
People began to recognize him back home from the Classic games they saw on television. His Minor League games don't get on the screen there, but they get scouts' attention, especially after his Classic performance. After a rough introduction to Triple-A ball at Charlotte brought expectations down a tad, the 25-year-old is starting to get noticed around the International League again.
After limping into June with a 6.71 ERA, Rienzo has given up just 11 earned runs in 48 1/3 innings since, striking out 48. He followed up with eight innings of one-run ball against Buffalo in a complete-game five-hitter in his final start before the break.
"I've worked a lot with my pitching coach," Rienzo said, referring to former White Sox pitcher Rich Dotson. "Every day, he's had something to show me, every day watching video. And I think that helped me a lot. I started to watch videos a lot."
His performance Sunday was workmanlike. He didn't overpower hitters as he retired the U.S. Team in order in the bottom of the third, but by mixing a low-90s fastball with some secondary stuff, he might have made a bigger impression.
None of the three hitters Rienzo faced got the ball into the outfield against him. His second hitter, noted speedster Billy Hamilton, ground out to first base. His last batter, Delino DeShields Jr., battled him to a full count before going around on a check swing at a slider on the outside corner.
Rienzo showed the experience he has racked up on his way up the White Sox developmental ladder, especially against the veteran Triple-A hitters who have battled him for much of the summer.
What happens with him from here might have as much to do with what the White Sox do at the big league level. If he can get to the Majors, he'd be the second Brazilian to do it, joining Indians catcher/infielder Yan Gomes.
Like Gomes, Rienzo was born in Sao Paulo, less than a year apart in age, but they don't know each other well. They grew up in different places. But Rienzo knows what Gomes means for baseball in Brazil.
Rienzo would like to do the same. He'd like to help baseball grow beyond a sport kids play for fun on the weekends, and become a dream for others like it has been for him.
Slowly, the dream is getting closer.
"That would be good," Rienzo said, "because kids can look to the TV and say, 'Hey, Brazilians have a chance, too.' Because in Brazil, it's about soccer, and sometimes you think you're in the wrong sport. So I think to see Gomes up there is key."