White Sox

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

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Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

It was only a couple of months ago that Dylan Covey had an earned-run average of 2.22 and was being touted as a possible future stalwart in the White Sox rotation.

Fast forward to the present, when the 27-year-old right-hander is sitting on a four-game losing skid and sports a 6.06 ERA.

So what happened?

Location, location, location.

Covey has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and has paid the price as hitters are teeing off on the high offerings.

“I just kind of got away from trying to keep the ball down in the zone and have that be my main focus,” Covey said. “Sometimes when I’m up in the zone I’m trying to be up there, but I need to get back to my bread and butter, which is pretty much being down in the zone with everything.”

The issues have been a combination of mechanics and mentality, according to Covey.

“Having good mechanics will lead to getting the ball down into the zone but more so it’s having the focus be down in the zone,” he said.

Covey’s next attempt to right the ship will be Saturday when he’s scheduled to pitch against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite his struggles, which include a 1-6 record and 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, manager Rick Renteria has continued to give Covey the ball.

“I’ve kind of been given the luxury to have a couple of opportunities and I appreciate that,” Covey said. “They see me work and they see the stuff that I have. When I can harness it and get control of it, it can be pretty good.”

Renteria said the Sox are “confident and hopeful” that Covey can turn things around.

“In real terms, he’s the one that's got to do it,” Renteria added. “He’s worked and gained a lot of experience and knowledge and had some successes this year that I think will bode well for him. Getting it down, for him is really, really important because the ball has a lot of tremendous action below the zone. We need him to do that in order to be effective and we believe he will continue to progress in that regard.”

Covey said that a stretch from May 23-June 13 when he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA gave him the confidence he needs to get through this difficult stretch.

“I’ve seen it this year--I’ve had the success,” Covey said. “When things are working for me I know I can be a really good pitcher. I just need to limit the mistakes and then learn to make an adjustment sooner rather than later.”

With about six weeks remaining in the Sox’s season, Covey plans to use his opportunities on the mound to secure a place on the 2019 roster.

“That’s where a lot of guys on this team are,” Covey said. “Obviously, we want to win games right now but for me, I want to finish this season strong and get some momentum going into next year and leave off on a good note. Just to have that feeling of, ‘OK, this is what I did last year and how I finished and let’s just carry on from there and pick it up from where I left off.’”

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

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USA TODAY

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.