With nothing else to prove in the minors, the White Sox determined it's time for starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez to move to the big leagues.
Acquired from Washington last December, Lopez is set to make his White Sox debut on Friday when they host the Kansas City Royals. The organization’s minor league pitcher of the month in July, Lopez went 6-7 with a 3.79 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 121 innings at Triple-A Charlotte this season. General manager Rick Hahn said Lopez has shown the White Sox all they needed to bring him back to the majors; the right-hander pitched 44 innings for the Nationals during the 2016 season.
“More consistency with the fastball, he threw quality strikes, trusting his off-speed pitches, being able to throw any pitch in any count,” Hahn said. “Again, taking the ball every fifth day and being prepared for that specific outing. The work that's done in between starts, some of the stuff that's not publicly seen. He's done everything we've asked of him and now's the time for him to take that next step.”
Lopez was particularly outstanding in July, posting a 2.10 ERA and striking out 38 batters in 30 innings. After he earned the award for July, Lopez said he thinks he’s ready for the majors and said it has been difficult at times to stay at Triple-A.
The White Sox hoped to clear a space in the rotation with a trade before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline. Hahn was unable to, however, and the White Sox will instead move Mike Pelfrey into the bullpen.
“The last four or five outings have been really, really good,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Think everybody in the city and obviously the club has been looking forward to starting to transition some of those guys who are ready to check off a few of those boxes and be able perform for us and we're looking forward to having him here. Obviously there's a lot of excitement, I'm sure in the city as well. It's just part of the process. Another piece we're going to be able to see."
Lopez is 32 1/3 innings shy of his career high for one season (he pitched 153 1/3 in 2016). But the White Sox currently have no plans to restrict him and will use Lopez every fifth day, Hahn said. This is part of the final stage of development and the White Sox don’t want to restrict Lopez from learning how to manage himself throughout and entire season.
“If we need to adjust because of innings load at some point or whatever reason we will but as I’ve said several times, we didn’t want to bring anyone here until we felt they were going to get the ball every fifth day and be part of a normal starter’s routine,” Hahn said. “The kid has worked extremely hard. He’s had an outstanding season so far in Triple-A.”