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White Sox’ Paulino eager to put underachievement, injury behind

Updated: March 19, 2014 6:26AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — At 6-3 and 265 pounds, right-hander Felipe Paulino is hard to miss in the White Sox’ clubhouse. If you’ve been called ‘‘Jumbo,’’ as Paulino has, that’s going to happen.

His enthusiasm and excitement about the prospect of pitching for the Sox stand out, too.

That’s to be expected from a man who hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 2012. Paulino, 30, had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in July 2012, then underwent a procedure to remove a cyst from his shoulder area last fall. He doesn’t hide his boyish delight about pitching in a big-league game as soon as possible.

‘‘I feel like the same guy [of] 2012; I feel stronger,’’ Paulino said. ‘‘It’s big. I only want to pitch right now. Last year, I didn’t pitch a lot. But the good thing is, my arm feels strong.’’

Paulino, who is penciled into the Sox’ starting rotation, is throwing with no restrictions during the first days of spring training. That’s a good thing. It would have been tough to hold him back.

‘‘I feel like a normal guy,’’ he said.

General manager Rick Hahn viewed Paulino as a low-risk acqui-
sition with considerable upside. Some sabermetric numbers, such as Paulino’s fielding-independent pitching ERA from 2010 to 2012, paint a slightly better picture of him than the conventional numbers.

Hahn signed Paulino to a one-year, $1.75 million contract in December. The deal includes a $4 million team option for 2015.

‘‘I’m healthy, and I’m ready to do my thing here with the White Sox,’’ Paulino said.

Paulino, who held the distinction of having the best fastball in the Houston Astros’ organization from 2006 to 2008, according to Baseball America, is 13-32 with a 4.93 ERA in parts of five seasons with the
Astros, Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals. He posted a 4.11 ERA in 20 starts with the Royals in 2011 and was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 372/3 innings before his elbow went bad in 2012.

Pitching coach Don Cooper, who watched Paulino throw bullpen sessions Saturday and Monday, is in the get-to-know-you stage with Paulino.

‘‘I’m just kind of acquainting myself with him and see what he’s doing,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I’ve already looked at video of him and will look at more video. I want to see when he was right, when he was healthy. He was healthy in 2011 for Kansas City. I want to see what he was doing.’’

Paulino wants to be that guy again. And that might be the only important question about him: Will he be at full strength? While rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last year, Paulino had a cyst removed from the back of his right shoulder in September.

Paulino said he was ready to throw three weeks after that and could have pitched in winter ball. It was tempting, considering he didn’t pitch in the majors last season.

‘‘The good thing is, I’m healthy and ready to compete,’’ Paulino said. ‘‘I just want to do everything I can here. I’m a real competitor. When I get the ball, I try to do everything to give us a chance to win the game.’’


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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