Rienzo getting chance to shine

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Spring training fun for Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Andre Rienzo will include a trip halfway around the world and the job as staff ace for his home country.

Rienzo, who pitched two innings in the White Sox's intrasquad game Thursday, has plenty on his plate in the coming weeks. He isn't expected to make the Opening Day roster, but a solid showing between now and the end of March could set him up as an option in Chicago possibly as early as midseason.

First things first for the Brazil native, though. Next week, the right-hander will board a flight bound for Japan to play in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic.

While Team USA will open play in Arizona, Brazil not only has to travel to Japan for its early games, it has to take on the host country in its first game. Japan was the winner of the first two WBCs.

“For me (Japan) is the best team right now because they're the champion,” Rienzo said. “It's a great opportunity for me to be there and throw. I think I'll pitch in Japan and I'm glad to have the opportunity.”

Not only will he get to pitch, Rienzo said he has already been told by Brazil manager Barry Larkin that he will get the ball in the opening game.

An exceptional talent who has been refining his game in the White Sox organization since 2007, Rienzo now appears to have mastered some intricacies of pitching. His 3.65 ERA at Single-A in 2010 was improved to 3.41 in 2011 at the high Single-A level.

Last season Rienzo pitched on three levels of the White Sox's system, advancing as high as Triple-A Charlotte for an outing. In that game he only happened to pitch 6 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. He was a combined 7-3 in three different leagues with a 2.53 ERA.

“Everything you hear about him, you see the poise that he has out there and the stuff,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said shortly after the intrasquad game. “There were some spots of that you get to see that are pretty good.”

As close as he is to making it on the major league level and appearing in a game against Japan's best, the 24-year-old Rienzo is still most wide-eyed in the White Sox's clubhouse. With a locker on one end next to fellow prospects, Rienzo admits to glancing to the other side at the room's high-rent district.

“You kind of don't believe it,” Rienzo said. “You see the guys on TV and now I see the guys' locker right there. It's crazy to be here. I'm trying to enjoy it a lot. I hope to impress somebody.”

He has done plenty of that already and Cactus League games, as well as that WBC opportunity, will give him plenty more chances.

Larkin, the former Reds shortstop and recent inductee into the Hall of Fame, is certainly aware of what he has.

“Barry Larkin is awesome,” Rienzo said. “He makes the team happy all the time and makes you believe in yourself. He never says anything bad about the team or you. He makes you feel good before and after you go there.”

Rienzo is scheduled to be available for the White Sox's Cactus League opener Saturday against the Dodgers and again Monday against the San Francisco Giants before leaving to Japan.