White Sox

Reynaldo Lopez shuts down the Indians: How close is he to making this a regular thing?

Reynaldo Lopez shuts down the Indians: How close is he to making this a regular thing?

Reynaldo Lopez was excellent Monday night.

He's been excellent before. In all likelihood, he'll be excellent again. But the challenge for him and fellow young starting pitcher Lucas Giolito isn't to be excellent once, to be excellent every now and then. It's to be excellent most of the time. All of the time.

And Lopez feels that in this critical learning season, as the White Sox inch closer to the transition from rebuilding to contending, that he's close to finding the consistency that's proved so elusive for so many White Sox players in recent years.

"I am very close. I think I am very close because I'm working hard to be consistent," Lopez said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I think that's something that I can do on a consistent basis. I truly believe that I'm very, very close to getting to that consistency level."

Lopez dominated the visiting Cleveland Indians in Monday night's win. He gave up a first-inning home run to Francisco Lindor, but that was it. He ended with just one earned run allowed on two hits and two walks. He struck out six in 7.2 innings. A terrific evening.

Of course, we knew Lopez was capable of this. He was the White Sox best starting pitcher last season, finishing his 2018 campaign with an ERA under 4.00 thanks to a spectacular final month in which he posted a 1.16 ERA over his final six starts. And though he got off to a bumpy start in 2019, he's turned in some great performances of late. He struck out 14 batters against the Detroit Tigers on April 28. He limited this same Cleveland lineup — one of baseball's worst offensive teams, by the way — to just three runs in a quality start last week. But, again, that consistency is still out there waiting for him; he's just two starts removed from giving up six runs in five innings to the Boston Red Sox.

So where did Monday's performance rank? For Lopez, who struck out 14 batters in a game, remember, this one was the best yet.

"I’ve had good outings but today’s was probably the best of the season," Lopez said. "All my pitches were sharp, I was using a very good arm angle, I was throwing strikes. I was using my legs much better today, too. All those factors helped me have a good outing.

"Yes I think (this was better than the 14-strikeout game). Because I felt good, I felt much better. I was commanding all my pitches. It’s not like the results from that 14-strikeout outing were bad, I just felt better today overall. With the command of all my pitches and how I felt physically. This was the best."

As Lopez starts piling up more starts like this — and know that he's not there yet, not with a season ERA that's still at 5.58 — it's a sign of the kind of dominant pitcher he has the potential to be.

There are a lot of starting-pitching question marks for the White Sox right now. Will Lopez and Giolito be able to find consistency? How will Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and now Carlos Rodon come out the other ends of their recoveries from Tommy John surgery? Will Alec Hansen make it back to the rotation? When will Dylan Cease make his major league debut?

Lopez being able to provide an answer to one of those would be huge for a team still waiting to see what their rotation of the future will look like.

There's a lot of baseball left to be played before the next contending White Sox team takes the field. There are a lot of learning moments still to come for Lopez. But steps like these give the White Sox and their fans a glimpse of what the future might hold. And Lopez feels he's close to turning that future into his present.

"He's pretty good," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's got good stuff, and when he's commanding it he can dominate a ballgame. And I thought today he did."

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After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

The young players that figure to feature heavily in the future of the White Sox have had quite a week.

It started with Lucas Giolito being the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins, then Eloy Jimenez blasted a big go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in his first crosstown game against the Cubs. Now, Zack Collins has added his own blast of optimism to the White Sox young core.

The 24-year-old made his first major league start on Friday in Texas and delivered a three-run home run in his first at-bat. It was his second MLB plate appearance after he drew a pinch-hit walk Wednesday in Wrigley.

After the White Sox beat the Rangers 5-4 in 10 innings, Collins talked to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

“Honestly I was just in shock,” Collins said. “I was running around the bases. It seemed like it lasted like three seconds and I felt myself sprinting around second so I had to slow it down and enjoy the moment, but it was an awesome time.”

Collins finished 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, but that is Collins’ game. He’s going to strikeout a lot and his batting average probably won’t be pretty. He has a career .234 batting average in the minors (.250 in Triple-A Charlotte this year), but he coupled that with a .378 on-base percentage and big power.

In his five trips to the plate on Friday, Collins saw 22 pitches. He’s going to work the count and sometimes he’s going to run into home runs.

“It was smooth,” Collins said. “I just kind of put the ball in play and the ball flew. I really don’t know. It was kind of a blur to me. It was obviously a big moment for me.”

Collins was called up Tuesday morning ahead of the first game against the Cubs. He didn’t play that game, but the pinch-hit walk on Wednesday helped take out some of the nerves.

“On Wednesday night I stepped up, I had a little bit of jitters, had a little bit of butterflies and stuff, but I think that was the point of getting in there on Wednesday and getting all that out,” Collins said. “It felt good tonight.”

Collins still hasn’t played catcher since he got called up. He was the DH in Friday’s lineup. That didn’t stop his dad from being excited about his first start.

“I was pumped,” Collins said of when he saw he was in the lineup. “I immediately texted my dad and told him I was in there. He told me good luck, play hard, do your thing. Obviously it started off well and we got a big win tonight so it was fun.”

As of the postgame interview, Collins didn’t yet have his home run ball. However, it sounded like he was able to make a deal with a fan for it.

“Somebody said they did get the ball,” Collins said. “I think I have to make a little trade with somebody.”

 

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WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

Zack Collins started his MLB career in fitting fashion, with a walk.

In his next trip to the plate, he hit a home run.

Collins came on as a pinch-hitter Wednesday at the Cubs and drew that walk. Friday's game at Texas was his first start. The 2016 first-round pick entered the lineup as a DH and batted eighth.

He came up with two on and two out against Rangers starter Ariel Jurado. Collins, as he is known for, took the first three pitches before fouling off a curve on a 2-1 count. Then he took a slider deep to right-center.

Watch Collins' home run in the video above.

Collins is known for three things as a hitter: home runs, walks and strikeouts. Before getting called up from Triple-A Charlotte, Collins was hitting .250/.374/.482. He had nine home runs in 50 games with 36 walks and 66 strikeouts. He was sixth in the International League in walks while playing fewer games due to splitting time at catcher.

In a very short time period, Collins is showing what the White Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him 10th overall in 2016.

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