ARLINGTON, Texas — Before Reynaldo Lopez left Thursday’s 9-8 loss to the Texas Rangers with what the team called soreness on his right side, we got a good look at everything that makes him such an exciting young arm, as well as why his future as a starter is so hotly debated.
First, the important stuff: The injury. Rick Renteria said after the game that Lopez is day-to-day with right side soreness. It’s a discomfort, it turns out, that may have not been discovered without a little prodding from Jose Abreu.
Lopez said through a team interpreter after the game that he started feeling soreness on the right side of his rib cage Thursday morning but attempted to pitch through it. After showing signs of discomfort in the fifth inning, manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider came out and asked him about his arm. Lopez said his arm felt fine and he was good to go, but Abreu saw it differently.
“First and foremost, we have to highlight he wanted to pitch through the pain,” Abreu said through a team interpreter. “But when Ricky left, I asked him, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re feeling good?’ Because I think with that kind of talent, you can’t mess around. You have to take care of these kids, especially if you are thinking of the future. He told me his right side was sore, and then at that moment, I decided to call Ricky back to let him know.”
As to his performance up to the point of his departure, it was a bit of a roller coaster.
Where last week’s debut against the Royals saw Lopez come out firing before wearing down late, Thursday’s featured less-than-stellar command, a tight strike zone, but still swing-and-miss stuff, particularly with the changeup.
All six of Lopez’s strikeouts were of the swinging variety, and five came on changeups. The lone exception being an face-high 94 mph fastball he blew past Brett Nicholas in the fourth (two innings after the catcher took Lopez deep off the aforementioned changeup).
Joey Gallo, he of TTO lore, had no chance in his lone plate appearance against Lopez, fouling off 97 mph heat on 3-2, only to be way out in front of an 83 mph changeup out of the strike zone on the very next pitch.
Prior to the injury being discovered, Lopez seemed to be rounding into form, striking out Drew Robinson and Nicholas on a combined seven pitches to end the fourth and opening the fifth with his final strikeout of the game against Delino DeShields Jr. on another well placed changeup.
“He’s got a very good changeup, obviously,” Renteria said. “They were trusting it to get some big outs.”
But amid the occasional ability to miss bats was sloppy command that saw Lopez battling behind for much of the night. His curveball was missing to the point where he appeared to completely abandon it early on, and while he worked around the plate and home plate umpire Mark Wegner’s zone seemed small, he wasn’t commanding it as well as we saw early on against the Royals, nor during most of his season at Triple-A. Patient veteran hitters Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre accounted for three of his four walks issued on the night.
The start epitomized everything both enticing and risky about Lopez as a prospect. Injury concerns aside, it was Lopez’s second straight start where he showed how advanced his swing-and-miss stuff can be while simultaneously displaying a fragile command that can abandon him at a moment’s notice.
Other notes from Thursday:
- Nick wrote Thursday about the White Sox’s bare bones bullpen and the series opener against the Rangers featured more of the same in terms of the parade of arms struggling to get outs. Chris Beck relieved Lopez, gave up a three-run homer and the lead to Nomar Mazara, and then exited after taking a line drive off the back (he’s day-to-day). After Mike Pelfrey allowed just two baserunners in his 1 2/3 innings, Brad Goldberg walked four, including one with the bases loaded that proved decisive, in just 2/3 innings of work.
- However, Thursday also featured the return of Dylan Covey as the Rule V selection made his first appearance since going down with an oblique injury on May 23. Covey tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings and given how long he spent on the disabled list, will now likely be able to stay rostered for the duration of 2017, meaning the White Sox won’t have to return him to Oakland.
- Covey didn’t walk anyone, but between Lopez, Pelfrey, and Goldberg, the White Sox walked nine batters on the night, which is a season high in walks drawn from their opponents. On the other side of the ball, Tyson Ross couldn’t find the plate for Texas in issuing six walks in his 4 1/3 innings of work. Ross is a veteran with subpar command and stuff to the point where advanced batter’s eyes from Yoan Moncada and Omar Narvaez combined to draw four of those six walks.
- Speaking of Moncada, he was in a 2-for-20 funk since his walk-off hit against Houston last week before launching his third home run on a 3-2 pitch in the first inning. He finished 1-for-3 with the home run and two walks, and also committed his third error on an errant flip to Tim Anderson in the fifth inning.
- Derek Holland starts Saturday in his first series back in Texas after spending the first eight years of his career with the Rangers. He was seen hours before the game playing frisbee with Carlos Rodon in the outfield grass and yelling greetings to ballpark employees. He raved before the game about Beltre and said he got him a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label engraved to say “Congratulations on 3,000 hits.” Holland, who lives in Dallas, also said it was good to be back home and sleep in his own bed for once.
- Abreu launched his 23rd home run of the season in the ninth inning and has very quietly put up yet another great season, with an OPS up to .868 and a wRC+ entering the day of 126. He also displayed the veteran “older brother” trait we’ve heard so much about with him in insisting Lopez tell his manager about his injury.
- Nicky Delmonico went 0-for-4, ending his career-beginning on base streak at 13. All good things must come to an end.
Lead Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports