White Sox

Prospect Frankie Montas has impressed White Sox coaches

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Prospect Frankie Montas has impressed White Sox coaches

DETROIT -- When he pitched in two All-Star contests earlier this summer, Frankie Montas was more than willing to show off his 101-mph fastball when he could.

But though he only arrived in the majors three weeks ago, the White Sox rookie has already begun to learn the value of a well located four-seamer.

Working with reduced velocity (it’s still 95-97 mph) Montas has impressed the coaching staff in five relief appearances. Primarily a starter in the minors, Montas has handled the transition well with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings with 10 strikeouts and four walks.

“I feel like the key is I’m not trying to do too much with my fastball,” Montas said. “Just throwing it and trying to hit the spot and trying to throw strikes so I can get outs.”

Since he was called up on Sept. 1, Montas, whom baseballamerica.com has tabbed the No. 91 prospect in baseball, has thrown 61.5 percent of his fastballs for strikes, according to brooksbaseball.net.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

In a scoreless inning Sunday, Montas averaged 97 mph with his fastball. His average was down a tad as four of his nine fastballs were balls, but he paired it with a nasty slider en route to two strikeouts and a weak groundout.

When he pitched in the Futures Game in July, teammates prodded Montas to throw a triple-digit fastball and he did. But he also allowed three runs and four hits in 2/3 innings. Montas said he also lit up the radar gun upon request at the Double-A All-Star Game, though he only allowed a hit and recorded an out in that one.

“What good is 101 if it’s nowhere near the glove?” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “I’d rather 93 to the glove and location than 95, 96 or 97 nowhere near it. He’s exhibiting strikes with his fastball and some strikes with his breaking ball. We haven’t got to see his changeup all that much, but that’s another work in progress.

“He’s now on his path and right now with X amount of games left he is doing everything that a guy should do to try to show everybody his ability.He’s making the best use of the opportunity he’s been given.”

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Similar to the way they’ve slowly broken Trayce Thompson in, the White Sox have used Montas in friendly situations so far to build his confidence. He has only appeared in relief but the White Sox believe he can be a major league starter. They hope to get Montas one start before the season is out, perhaps as early as Wednesday, though those plans are up in the air because of Monday’s doubleheader.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes how Montas uses his fastball-changeup combination.

“He looks like (a starter),” Ventura said. “Every time he goes out there, it gets a little better. There’s more confidence with him going out there throwing different pitches.

“There are some guys who throw it 98 or 99, but they get hit a lot. I think there’s some deception in the way he throws. And the offspeed stuff that he has, it will hide that.”

In a very small sample size, the opposition has a .214/.313/.250 slash line against Montas in 32 plate appearances. He’d love to get a chance to start and thinks he could go relatively deep if he did. Because he’s been in the bullpen for three weeks, it more likely would be a 3-4 inning stint for Montas, Ventura said. Either way, Montas plans to enjoy the final two weeks of the season.

Perhaps even more important, he knows what he needs to do.

“Right now everything I’m trying to do is command my fastball, try to hit the spot and not try to be perfect, just try to hit the spot and throw strikes,” Montas said.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.