This time of year inspires conversations about “peaking at the right time” throughout baseball. In the White Sox’ 7-1 win against the Reds on Tuesday, starting pitcher Reynaldo López showed what it looks like.
“I feel much better than before, much better than in 2018,” López said through team interpreter Billy Russo, referencing the year he was the White Sox’ best starting pitcher. “More confidence in myself, more conviction and of course more experience. That’s the key, and I feel like I’m a way better pitcher right now.”
López held the Reds to one run through six innings to open the White Sox’ final home stand of the regular season.
Capping a season that included an eye procedure, Triple-A stint, and varying roles for López, the right-hander produced his longest outing of the year. He was efficient, allowing two hits and no walks. The only run he gave up come on Eugenio Suárez’s solo homer.
La Russa said López could be available out of the bullpen on Sunday for the White Sox’ regular season finale. But how does López fit into the White Sox’ playoff plans?
The short answer is, it’s too early to say. La Russa said he’ll meet with general manager Rick Hahn on Friday to talk about roster construction. But López gives the White Sox a valuable safety net with rotation questions remaining.
Carlos Rodón’s start Wednesday will address the biggest question. The lefty has been dealing with shoulder soreness, even with the White Sox building in extra rest between his starts. He’d thrown fewer than 45 innings in the previous two seasons combined. Rodón enters play Wednesday with just shy of 128 innings this season.
“It's going to be an interesting night,” La Russa said earlier this week. “An important, interesting night.”
It’s safe to say Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito are lining up to pitch Game 1 and Game 2 of the American League Division Series, although not necessarily in that order. Dylan Cease, who is scheduled to start Sunday’s season finale against the Tigers, has developed into a starter the White Sox can count on at some point in the postseason.
But who takes the ball in Game 3? Cease could get the nod, but what if Rodón is relatively healthy? Could Rodón slot in either way, with a long reliever standing by in case he can’t go deep?
What about Game 4, if necessary? Do the Sox turn back to their Game 1 starter on three days’ rest or go with a fresher arm?
“They say, (don't) spin your wheels too much until you know what you've got,” La Russa said this week.
In any scenario, especially considering the uncertainly surrounding Rodón’s health, López’s value is twofold. He can piggyback with Rodón or Cease, who has one inning of postseason pitching experience. Or, if the White Sox need a start somewhere down the line, he’s proven in the past couple months that he can fill that role too.
López, however, didn’t make any grand statements about the playoff roster.
“What can I say?” he said when asked if he’d done enough to be included. “I think so, but that’s something that is not in my hands. I’m doing all that they are asking me to do. And my mindset right now, all I want to do right now, is help this team win games.”