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Sports

Sox pitcher feels like a kid again

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but to hear White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo tell it, the diamond at U.S. Cellular Field is his.

"Man, the first day I come here, I get out and just look around for five minutes," he said. "For me, all this scenery is beautiful. I just enjoy all the time I'm here."

All it took was seven years in the minors five starts in the majors and thousands of miles of travel from his native Brazil for Rienzo to make history as the first Brazilian-born player to pitch in and win a Major League Baseball game, a 5-2 decision over the Royals in Kansas City on August 21st.

"Seven years to be here," he said in broken English with a smile. "I hope I'm doing my job to keep me here. I hope I'm helping the team and live long here."

If he keeps up his current pace, that won't be an issue.

Since being called up at the end of July, Rienzo has gone 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in eight starts.

"For me, it's good," he said. "I feel like I'm doing my job."

Rienzo is an affable athlete who approaches his job like an overgrown child who just stole the keys to the chocolate factory and makes you feel like a close friend within seconds of meeting him.

Ask him about his job, as RedEye did in the dugout recently, and his eyes instantly light up.

"It's the dream," he said. "It's my dream."

It's a dream that has come with plenty of sacrifice.

Rienzo said he hasn't seen his family since he left for spring training in early February, save for a surprise visit from one of his brothers.

"My brother saw my first start here [in Chicago]," he said. "The first start here, my brother made a surprise just for one day to come watch the game and [then went] back to Brazil."

The rest of his family is expected to join him in Chicago in September, a month Rienzo said he specifically chose.

Growing up in soccer-mad Brazil presented challenges in and of itself. Rienzo found himself in the minority among his friends when it came to his interest in baseball.

But to hear him tell it, he had no choice when it came to the sport that became his full-time job.

"My mother played softball and my two brothers played baseball," he said. "All my family was into baseball so I just followed the line."

While the number of diamonds in his hometown just outside Sao Paolo hasn't increased, the quality has.

"It's not that," Rienzo said, gesturing out at the U.S. Cellular Field diamond. "But it's good fields, yes."

While soccer may be the sport of choice back at home, Rienzo said he's doing his part to inspire more kids to follow in his footsteps.

"I help the community," he said. "I teach little kids in Brazil. I'm not good at teaching, I just try to have fun with the kids."

For now, his focus is squarely on the field and the remainder of the 2013 season.

With a 2014 rotation spot at stake, Rienzo is aware that consistent success will go a long way toward impressing the powers-that-be.

But even if he's not in the Sox's future plans at the big league level, that's not going to stop him from trying to force the issue.

"My job is pitching," he said. "The boss, if they send the minors again, I will keep fighting, fighting for maybe next year. Just keep fighting to be here and not get sent down."

Matt Linder is a RedEye special contributor.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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