Reynaldo Lopez gave up two home runs and walked three batters in his White Sox debut.
Doesn’t sound quite that promising does it? There is much more to the story than the tale of the tape, though.
Lopez, calm and collected during his debut on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, put on quite the show. His first pitch to Royals leadoff man Whit Merrifield lit up the gun at 97 mph and the heat didn’t stop there.
With six strong innings of work, a longer outing than Lopez had recorded during his last three starts with the Charlotte Knights, Lopez struck out six batters and kept pumping his fastball at 97 mph — even flirting with 99 mph on a few pitches.
Lopez made it clear that hitting 97 mph early on wasn’t simply to be chalked up to excitement.
“I don’t think it was part of the excitement or the adrenaline,” Lopez said. “That was just part of my preparation and all the work that I did in my workout and in the gym and that was the way that it showed up today. I mean, I wasn’t over excited. I was calm.”
“He looked comfortable,” Manager Rick Renteria said of Lopez postgame. “He didn’t look very nervous to be honest. He looked like he was in the right place. Everything he did was very much under control. He looked very happy to be here.”
The only runs Lopez allowed to score on the evening were two solo shots to Mike Moustakas, his 33rd and 34th homers of the season.
Catcher Kevan Smith noted that Moustakas was playing a dangerous game taking a chance on those pitches. “He was hitting fastballs of [Lopez] that were almost going to hit him and I was like “What’s this guy thinking here?” We struck him out in his first at bat, and obviously he got him in his second two but those are all at-bats that we can learn from.”
After walking three batters Friday night and a combined nine in his last three starts at Charlotte, control is still an issue that may tarnish Lopez’s seemingly perfect arsenal, but at just 23-years old, Lopez isn’t a finished product just yet. He’s simply in the next stage of his development.
Lopez has the confidence to not become derailed as he continues to grow, a very strong asset for a young pitcher such as himself. “As a pitcher, I know that I’m going to allow some hits,” Lopez said. “But I think that the key is just to keep your focus on the game and keep your confidence and that was what all I did.”
Lopez made the 18,137 hold their breath as he allowed three straight hits on three pitches in the fourth inning with just one out, already laboring at nearly 60 pitches.
“I thought that was his best inning to test him,” Kevan Smith said of the inning. “I think he got through that great. Obviously had a couple hits off him there but he kept his poise he made some great pitches in some counts that he was behind on that I was proud of him about. … That was a great inning for him to have there because he was kind of cruising a little bit and I was like, ‘When is he going to hit some adversity here?’ So, he got it and he got through it and it was a good run. I told him, ‘That was a terrific outing. Let’s see what our mistakes were and where we can get better and just keep working hard.’”
Lopez’s curveball, averaging 79 mph on the evening, was extremely impressive and garnered five swinging strikes. The curveball gives Lopez a pitch with a 17 mph disparity from his fastball, which averaged 97 mph, and gave him an excellent pitch to use to change eye levels on hitters.
The White Sox earned their fourth straight victory as they beat the Royals 6-3 on Friday evening. Lopez left the game in the sixth tied at two, giving him a no-decision on his first White Sox start. Rookie reliever Aaron Bummer gained his first big league win on the evening.
So far this season, the two biggest call ups the White Sox have seen in Yoan Moncada and now Lopez have done nothing but impress — a good sign for a strong future.