White Sox

White Sox: Why Randy Johnson doesn't like Chris Sale comparison

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White Sox: Why Randy Johnson doesn't like Chris Sale comparison

Randy Johnson doesn’t think it’s fair to compare Chris Sale to himself.

That’s because Johnson, who will enter the Hall of Fame later this summer, didn’t enjoy the kind of success Sale — who told USA Today he looked up to Johnson growing up — is having in his mid-20’s.

"I'm flattered that he thinks of me that way,'' Johnson told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. "But considering the fact he's just 26, he's light years away from where I was at that age. I didn't have that kind of success that early. I didn't have that control.”

Johnson made his major league debut as a 24-year-old with Montreal in 1988 and in 1989, his first full season, he walked 96 in 160 2/3 innings with a 4.82 ERA. In 1990, Johnson issued a league-leading 120 walks, though he was more effectively wild that year for the Mariners, posting a 3.65 ERA in his age-26 season.

[MORE: White Sox ace Chris Sale continues his staggering run of success]

In Johnson’s first 406 1/3 innings in the majors (between his age 24 and 26 seasons) he walked 223 batters. Sale, in 748 2/3 innings since debuting as a 21-year-old in 2010, has issued 190 walks.

The Sale-Johnson comparison is largely based on their tall, lanky builds, power fastballs and biting sliders. Johnson led the league in walks in 1991 (152) and 1992 (144), too, before getting his command under control by about his age 30 season.

That’s when Johnson’s career took off. From 1999-2002, Johnson won the Cy Young every year and averaged a 20-7 record, 258 innings, 354 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA per season.

Johnson’s 12 complete games in 1999 were the most in baseball — and even though that was only 16 years ago, it was a different era. Sale led the American League with four complete games in 2013.

Sale has established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers over the last four seasons, compiling a 2.82 ERA with 719 strikeouts in 654 1/3 innings since being moved from the White Sox bullpen to starting rotation in 2012. He’s earned bids to three consecutive All-Star games and finished in the top six in AL Cy Young voting from 2012-2014.

“He’s right up there with Johnson,” manager Robin Ventura, who faced “The Big Unit” 45 times in his career, said. “We do that because he’s left-handed but he’s right up there with any of those guys.”

[MORE: Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation]

Over Sale’s last four starts, he’s racked up 49 strikeouts against four walks in 30 2/3 innings. Narrow that down to his last three starts, and he joined Dodgers great Sandy Koufax as the only pitcher since 1900 to have 12 or more strikeouts and allow fewer than two runs in three consecutive starts.

Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. Those are pretty lofty left-handers to be compared to, but Sale’s doing his part to justify it.

"If I had to name the best five pitchers in the game, he’s one of them for sure,” Johnson told USA Today, “right along with Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. He's just a very dominating pitcher right now."

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.