Reynaldo Lopez

Reynaldo Lopez shows maturity in bounce-back outing

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez shows maturity in bounce-back outing

In the aftermath of his previous start, Reynaldo Lopez didn’t mince words when describing the White Sox’s effort, telling reporters, “we looked like clowns there, starting with me.”

On a soggy Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, the clown show was no longer present—as least on the Sox’s side--as Lopez and his teammates rallied for an 8-4 victory over a sloppy Twins squad in the opener of a three-game series.

After enduring a 108-minute weather delay to start the game and often pitching through rain drops, Lopez was markedly better than during last Wednesday’s loss to the Indians that irked the righthander. Against the Twins, Lopez allowed four runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work and, this time, left the mound with a smile on his face.

“I felt happy because it was a good game,” Lopez said via a team interpreter. “There were a few things that happened during the game but I was able to manage (them) and I was able to execute the plan that we had for today’s game.”

The Sox played error-less ball in the field and Yolmer Sanchez came up with the big hit—a two-out, two-run single in the sixth that gave them a 5-4 lead—to help Lopez improve to 3-5 on the season.

“Always you feel good when you help the team win games,” said Sanchez, who matched his career high with four RBIs. “I feel good with runners in (scoring) position. I don’t try to do too much. I try to put the ball in play.”

Lopez yielded solo home runs to Brian Dozier and Ehire Adrianza and was burned by three consecutive singles by Mitch Garner, Jake Cave and Adrianza to start the fifth inning but at times was over-powering with a fastball that reached the high 90s and a sharp curveball.

Meanwhile, Twins starter Lance Lynn didn’t make it out of the sixth inning and yielded five runs—four earned—on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

In addition to Sanchez’s clutch hit, Lynn gave up an RBI triple to Yoan Moncada and a run-scoring groundout by Sanchez in the third. After the Sox loaded the bases in the sixth with singles by Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia and Kevan Smith, Lynn was pulled in favor of Ryan Pressly and the reliever promptly walked Tim Anderson to pull the Sox to within 4-3. Two outs later, Sanchez ripped a single to center off Taylor Rogers to put the Sox in front. In the seventh, Avisail Garcia launched his first home run since April 3 to make it 6-4.

In the eighth, Sanchez singled in a run and Jose Abreu walked with the bases loaded for the final margin.

Lopez’s bounce-back outing was indicative of the maturity the 24-year-old has shown this season, according to manager Rick Renteria.

“He continues to improve and grind out innings and give us some starts that give us a chance,” Renteria said. “He’s continued to show some calm out here. He is maturing.”

Lopez also believes he is maturing and it has helped him overcome adversity on the mound.

“I absolutely agree with Ricky,” Lopez said. “Before, I used to get frustrated from things that happened during the game or if I had a bad outing. Now, I know how to control those emotions (and) I know how to control the game. I think that’s part of the maturation process. You’re learning every day and you’re executing. You’re applying all that knowledge you’re gaining. I’m more mature now (and) I know how to handle different situations.”

After Reynaldo Lopez said White Sox 'looked like clowns' in Cleveland, Rick Renteria fine with his pitcher's comments

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USA TODAY

After Reynaldo Lopez said White Sox 'looked like clowns' in Cleveland, Rick Renteria fine with his pitcher's comments

The White Sox are on a seven-game losing streak and are 25 games below .500.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the losses have piled up in a season that was always going to be about player development and advancing the rebuilding effort. Rick Hahn didn’t call this the hardest part of the rebuild for nothing.

But losing is fun for no one, and to be in the midst of such results on an everyday basis can unsurprisingly cause frustration to build.

The most verbalized display of that frustration to date came earlier this week, when at the end of a sweep at the hands of the division-rival Cleveland Indians, pitcher Reynaldo Lopez said he and his teammates “looked like clowns.”

“It’s unacceptable for us to look the way we looked today,” Lopez told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, through a translator after Wednesday’s 12-0 loss in Cleveland. “Nobody is happy about the way we looked today. Honestly, we looked like clowns there, starting with me. But I know we can do better. It’s a matter of us to keep grinding, improving and working hard.”

Calling the people you work with “clowns” might cause some problems in the average workplace. But the leader of this team, manager Rick Renteria, was fine with what Lopez said and complimented him for making the comments, not a dissimilar reaction to the one he had after veteran pitcher James Shields said he didn’t care about the rebuild and wanted to win now earlier this season.

“Good for him,” Renteria said of Lopez on Friday. “I think he was just speaking what everybody was probably sensing. I think nobody was hiding it. I think the players knew it. I think we addressed it a little bit. You know, when the pitcher comes out — I mean, he took accountability for himself, that’s one of the things we were talking about, that’s a good thing.

“I think when these guys express themselves to each other and make it known that we expect certain things and we’re not doing those things and we want to get back to what we’ve always preached.

“I think they’re all accountable. They look in the mirror. They understand, I believe, that he was speaking from a place of trying to get us back to understanding that there’s a level of play that you expect, there’s a level of focus and concentration that you’re looking to have, and it’s the only way you have a chance in order to compete.

“I mean, you’re playing against some of the best teams in the game of baseball. You need to have that focus and concentration in order to give yourself a chance. He just made it known.”

As Renteria kept saying, Lopez was just as hard on himself, and he had a right to be. He allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in just 4.1 innings. Surely he’d be happy to avoid the Indians again this season: In two starts against them, he’s allowed 11 earned runs on 14 hits over seven innings.

But he wasn’t alone in Wednesday’s ugliness. The offense mustered only two hits in the shutout, Yoan Moncada committed another fielding error, and the bullpen allowed seven more runs, six of them charged to Bruce Rondon.

Similar vocalizations of this team’s frustrations have come from the likes of Hahn, Renteria and Shields. But now it’s coming from one of the young players who are the reason for this organization’s bright future. Lopez has pitched as well as any White Sox pitcher this season, and he figures to be in the mix for a spot in the team’s rotation of the future.

“I think it speaks volumes for him,” Renteria said. “You can’t be scared to voice what you believe is, in your opinion, something that you’re viewing, especially (about) yourself. And then you can direct it, if you need to, to the rest of the club. And I think he did a nice job. I thought he did it very respectfully, to be honest.”

The level of talent on this roster obviously isn’t what the White Sox hope it will be in the coming years, and because of the development happening in the minor leagues, many of the big league team’s current players aren’t expected to be around when things transition from rebuilding to contending.

But the attitude and identity that made “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” a rallying cry is still expected to be on display every day. It’s hard to find that kind of thing in a 12-0 loss.

Of course these players don’t want to lose, and Lopez’s comments are a way of saying that. Hence why the manager of the supposed no-quit boys was happy to hear them.

Is Reynaldo Lopez a future ace? Already with 10 quality starts to his name, consistency is a good first step

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USA TODAY

Is Reynaldo Lopez a future ace? Already with 10 quality starts to his name, consistency is a good first step

Is Reynaldo Lopez a future ace? His manager thinks so.

Lopez might not be the biggest name in the White Sox rebuilding effort, with much of the pitching hype going to Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen, even to Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease. But what Lopez is doing at the major league level shows he’s got as much of a chance at starring in that crowded rotation of the future as anyone.

Friday night’s six innings and three runs in the White Sox series-opening loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers was far from Lopez’s best moment in a season that’s gone very well for him to this point. He gave up nine hits, one off his season high, and only struck out three opposing hitters. But he kept the White Sox around long enough for Omar Narvaez to tie the game with a three-run homer after he threw his final pitch of the evening in the sixth.

A shut-down performance it was not. But it was quality, certainly by the statistic and perhaps by many other measures. It was his sixth quality start in his last eight outings, and it’s that consistency that’s made him the team’s best starting pitcher this season.

It’s part of what makes Rick Renteria see a future ace.

“Right now, he’s scratching at the surface of what he can be,” Renteria said before Friday’s game. “He’s got the makeup. I think his mound presence when he goes out there — at the beginning of the season, we would have moments where he would hit or miss in terms of what we thought his intensity level was like before the start of a game — but he’s been much more focused and committed to what he’s going to be able to do in terms of attacking the opponent.

“It has shown in his last few outings, and the way he’s approached his pitching, he’s gotten us deep into ballgames, minimized damage on the other side. He continues to mature. I think his confidence level is really growing. I think you put that together with the ability to repeat a delivery, use all your pitches whenever you want to use them, if you command the zone as he has been. He’s got a chance because not only does he have stuff, he has the ability to command that stuff.”

Renteria, in describing a variety of White Sox starters this season, has talked about the ability of a pitcher to keep the damage low, to hang around and eat up innings, as signs of growth and signs of quality contributions. It sounds simple enough: Prevent the other team from scoring a bunch of runs and make it so the bullpen doesn’t have to throw a bunch of innings. Sounds like the bare-minimum requirements of a starting pitcher rather than the definition of a front-of-the-rotation guy.

But you can’t have one without the other. It’s been upsettingly obvious to White Sox fans how certain young pitchers haven’t been able to accomplish those tasks this season. It shows that Lopez is perhaps ahead of the game in his development while his contemporaries continue to go through more visible growing pains.

Reliability has been the name of the game for Lopez, who after Friday’s start owns a 3.35 ERA and 10 quality starts on the season. Only 16 pitchers in baseball have recorded double-digit quality starts this season.

“That’s part of it. Like today, grinding through when the game first started, the first couple of innings. You are going, ‘Man, he got a little deeper into his pitch count.’ You are wondering if he was able to get through it.

“He was able to just kind of magically get to the sixth inning with 97 or 98 pitches. So, he gave us a chance. He truly gave us a chance.”

Lopez is happy to have the confidence and the praise of his manager. Giving your team a chance to win, that’s the goal for pitchers, and that’s what Lopez has been doing on a start-by-start basis. He also happens to think things have gone well.

“Those words make me feel proud, especially coming from Ricky,” he said through a translator. “I work hard every day to try to improve, to try to do my best every time that I have the opportunity to go out there to pitch and perform. It’s good when you hear those comments about yourself. That’s a motivation because you see that people are noticing what you’re doing and all the work that you put in day in and day out in this sport. And especially for me this season, it’s been a very good season.”