White Sox

White Sox minor league pitcher of the month Reynaldo Lopez 'forcing issue' to be called up

White Sox minor league pitcher of the month Reynaldo Lopez 'forcing issue' to be called up

Reynaldo Lopez has only strengthened his case over the last month that he deserves to be in the majors.

Seemingly ready for a promotion, the Triple-A Charlotte starting pitcher was named the organization’s minor league pitcher for July on Wednesday. Single-A Winston-Salem outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Charlotte infielder Jake Peter split honors as the franchise’s minor league player of the month.

Acquired in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, Lopez posted a 2.10 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 30 innings last month. MLB.com’s No. 59 prospect, Lopez currently is among the International League leaders in strikeouts (third with 122), strikeouts per nine (third, 9.5), opponents average (third, .220) and innings pitched (fifth, 116).

“He’s forcing the issue,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told reporters on Sunday. “He’s had several starts in a row that have been very impressive. Lucas Giolito, as well, has been impressive in his recent starts, and at some point here they’re likely going to force our hand to get them here to Chicago and give them the opportunity to show what they can do at the big league level.”

Peter hasn’t slowed down since he adjusted levels, moving up to Charlotte from Double-A Birmingham in July. Peter not only had an 18-game hitting streak, he hit .364/.424/.542 with four home runs, 13 RBIs and 21 runs between the two.

Jimenez has used his new opportunity with the White Sox to show how explosive of an offensive force he can be. The No. 5 prospect in baseball, Jimenez produced a .356/.415/.678 slash line with seven doubles, four homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games after he was acquired in the deal that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs.

“We view him as similar to Moncada, where Yoan was in his development the year before we acquired him — with the potential to grow into a potent offensive force,” Hahn said last month. “Again, one of the more exciting prospects in baseball with a diverse skillset that can impact the game multiple ways.”

Lopez’s potential has had plenty of fans wondering when he’ll have the chance to make an impact in the majors.

The White Sox starting rotation could use the help. The team’s starters are 22-49 with a 5.13 ERA this season and have only pitched five or more innings in 52 of 104 games. Lopez, who has 42 major league innings to his credit, was the most polished pitcher acquired last winter. The White Sox suggested he was close to major-league ready during the spring and Lopez has begun proving it the past few months.

“He’s been commanding all his pitches, being very aggressive within the zone and showing that he’s getting close to needing to be here to show what he can do against big league hitters,” Hahn said.

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

After a rough outing against the Detroit Tigers on July 4 — his last before the All-Star break — White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez vowed to be a different pitcher going forward.

“At this point, after a really bad first half, there's not much I can say about that. Starting today, you're going to see a different pitcher going forward for the second half of the season,” Lopez said after his July 4 start through team interpreter Billy Russo. “What is done is done. There's nothing else that I can do to change what is done.

“I can do different things to get better and to be a better pitcher for the year and that's what I'm going to do.”

Two outings later, and Lopez is nearing the point where he can say “I told you so.”

Lopez has come out of the break firing on all cylinders after struggling to a 4-8 record and MLB-worst 6.34 ERA before the Midsummer Classic. Friday, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball, allowing just six hits and one walk compared to eight strikeouts. This follows his brilliant outing against the Athletics on Sunday in which he pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and one run — albeit unearned — with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Lopez exited Sunday’s game in line for a win before the White Sox bullpen slipped up. The offense allowed no such opportunity on Friday, tallying 16 hits en route to a 9-2 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s Lopez’s first win since June 9 against the Kansas City Royals.

Lopez has received a fair share of criticism this season for his struggles, but his recent success should not come as much of a surprise considering how he fared in 2018. The 25-year-old posted a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts, striking out 151 batters in 188 2/3 innings.

Lopez’s strikeout rate in 2019 is up compared to 2018 (8.19 K/9 in 2019 vs. 7.20 in 2018) and his walk rate is down (3.32 BB/9 in 2019 vs. 3.58 in 2018). The major difference is that opponents are hitting .284 against him this season compared to .234 in 2018, while also holding a .319 BABIP, up from .260 last season.

It may just be two starts, but Lopez is backing up his vow to pitch better. Between Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and the returns of Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón from Tommy John surgery in 2020, the White Sox future starting rotation is in good hands. Getting Lopez back to pitching how he did in 2018 will only take that group to the next level.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Interview with Hall of Famer Harold Baines

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NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox Talk Podcast: Interview with Hall of Famer Harold Baines

Chuck Garfien sits down with new Hall of Famer Harold Baines.

First, Chuck, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka share their memories of watching Baines play with the White Sox (1:40). Then, Baines explains why he's always been so soft-spoken (8:45), how he was able to play 22 seasons in the majors (13:00), why he's never spoken to GM Larry Himes for trading him to Texas (15:30), the apology he received from President George W. Bush (16:30), what he thinks about the critics who don't think he should be in the Hall of Fame (18:25), a replay of Baines emotional interview with Chuck about his dad (20:50) and more.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: