When he rebounded without a second thought Friday, Reynaldo Lopez displayed one of the primary reasons why he’s one of the more advanced White Sox prospects.
Temporarily frustrated when the Tampa Bay Rays’ Logan Morrison beat him for the second time, Lopez quickly regained his composure and avoided letting a third-inning rally spiral out of control.
Making his first start after two weeks on the disabled list, Lopez looked strong overall, particularly when he bounced back from a pair of early mistakes and finished by retiring 11 straight hitters. The White Sox fell to the Rays 3-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field in spite of six efficient innings from Lopez, who struck out seven. It’s the kind of performance the White Sox believe Lopez will be able to replicate in large part because of his maturity on the mound.
“Sometimes you make mistakes and you have to understand that it’s a mistake, you have to accept it,” Lopez said through an interpreter. “At the same time, you have to keep moving forward because that pitch is already made, there’s nothing you can do. That’s what I tried to do, just kept my focus on the game and tried to get the next batter out.”
Lopez hadn’t started since Aug. 17 because of a strained back that robbed him of some velocity his last time out. But stuff wasn’t an issue for the right-hander on Friday.
Lopez touched 97 mph with his fastball in the first inning and threw all three of his pitches with confidence. His execution wasn’t there on two pitches in the first three innings and Morrison made him pay for both. Morrison blasted a two-run homer on a first-inning curveball to give Tampa a 2-0 lead. Two innings later, Lopez left a curveball up and Morrison ripped it to right for an RBI single to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. The single had the potential to dampen Lopez’s day as it put runners on the corners with one out. But Lopez struck out Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson flew out to end the threat. After that, Lopez didn’t allow a runner to reach base as he retired the side in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“He was irritated with himself … but he kept working, “ White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He kept coming back out there and kind of settling down, feeling more comfortable as the game progressed. He was able to minimize the damage and keep us in the ballgame.”
Lopez’s efficiency also allowed him to go as deep into the game as the White Sox hoped he might. Renteria said the club targeted six innings and 90 pitches as Lopez had been limited to a pair of bullpen sessions the previous five days.
Lopez needed only 85 pitches to navigate through six innings with strikes thrown on 59 of his offerings. He allowed three earned runs and five hits with one walk in his third big league start this season.
“Every time you’re able to go out there and pitch, you’re gaining experience,” Lopez said. “Then you know how to make better pitches, how to execute your plan, how to have success. What I’m trying to do is get more experience and to be able to execute it.”