Remember that starting rotation depth you’ve heard so much about? Well, we're about to see how deep it really is.
Sunday was simply a hot, disastrous day on the South Side and the 14-2 score was far from the worst part. Having already lost Michael Kopech because he opted out of the 2020 season, the White Sox could now be without right-hander Reynaldo López after he left Sunday’s game with right shoulder tightness in the first inning.
“The pain was increasing in every pitch. It was more difficult every pitch,” López said after the game. “It’s very difficult to pitch when you’re dealing with something like that. I tried to battle through it.”
Even though López managed to get the first two outs of the game, his velocity was noticeably down, topping out at 94 miles per hour instead of the upper 90s. He said he felt the discomfort right away and it was apparent he didn’t have very much command. After getting two outs, López loaded the bases before Jake Cave hammered a sluggish 92-mph fastball over the left field wall for a grand slam.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, left fielder Eloy Jiménez needlessly ran into the wall on the play and eventually left the game in the second inning with “light-headedness,” according to the team. White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Jiménez felt dizzy but was already doing better after the game. He’ll be reevaluated Monday.
Meanwhile, López didn’t finish the first. With the velocity continuing to dip, he noticeably winced after a 91-mph fastball to Marwin González. Catcher Yasmani Grandal immediately called for a trainer.
“I hope it has nothing to do with (the shoulder tightness),” Renteria said. “I hope it has more to do with he just failed to execute. But we'll check him out. We'll make sure he's OK. We'll reevaluate him tomorrow and hopefully he'll be back.”
Renteria seemed somewhat optimistic, while López was understandably down. How much time the right-hander will miss – if any – will be determined after further tests, but the White Sox insulated themselves for this situation, with veteran left-hander Gio González ready to go in the bullpen as an insurance policy. Unfortunately, González struggled in his first outing with the team that drafted him 16 years ago. He allowed six earned runs in just 3.2 innings after relieving López.
Perhaps González will perform better with the opportunity to start – he posted a 3.50 ERA in 19 games, including 17 starts, with Milwaukee last year – but it might not be long before the White Sox need to call on one of two rookies, as Jimmy Lambert and Dane Dunning appear next in line for the rotation. Lambert made his Major League debut with a 1-2-3 inning out of the bullpen Saturday, while Dunning is currently training with the team’s reserves in Schaumburg.
López, who struggled mightily in 2019 and wasn’t inspiring much confidence in the spring and summer, might not seem like a big loss if he misses significant time, but it does impact the depth the White Sox believe they possess. And at a minimum, it increases the need for Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón to provide consistency every fifth day.
With the White Sox already losing two of three to the Minnesota Twins to start this 60-game season, Cease and Rodón will get their first opportunities to prove themselves the next two days in an important series in Cleveland. And with the sour taste of Lucas Giolito allowing seven runs in 3.2 innings on Opening Day still lingering, there needs to be a sense of urgency in the White Sox’s rotation.
It would be nice to have Michael Kopech, wouldn’t it?
Kopech’s reasons for skipping the 2020 season in the midst of a global pandemic must be respected, but that doesn’t mean his loss doesn’t hurt.
The White Sox can survive without Kopech and perhaps without Lopez, but the situation doesn’t a leave a whole lot of wiggle room. Cease, Rodón and especially Giolito need to be on point – especially with only 57 games to go.