Mike Moustakas

Composed prospect Reynaldo Lopez's White Sox debut a 'good one'

Composed prospect Reynaldo Lopez's White Sox debut a 'good one'

If prized prospect Reynaldo Lopez felt any nervousness on Friday night it was seemingly undetectable.

The starting pitcher impressed from the outset and energized the Guaranteed Rate Field crowd in his White Sox debut as he pumped 97-mph fastballs while only making a few mistakes. The first player to emerge from the December trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, Lopez lived up to the hype with six strikeouts in six strong innings as the White Sox downed the Kansas City Royals 6-3. At no point did Lopez, who earned a no decision, better demonstrate the poise that made him the No. 59 prospect in baseball than when he pitched out of a fourth-inning jam to protect a one-run lead.

“He got through that great,” catcher Kevan Smith said. “Obviously got a couple hits off him there. He kept his poise. He made some great pitches in some counts he was behind on that I was proud of him about. That was a great inning for him to have there in the middle because he was kind of cruising a little bit. I was like, when’s he going to hit some adversity here? He got through it and it was a good one.”

Solid reviews poured in from every corner of the building for Lopez, who threw 36 four-seam fastballs at an average of 96.5 mph. Working with a three-pitch mix, Lopez started to attack as soon as his introductory applause died down. The right-hander struck out a pair in the first inning and struck out the side in the second inning as well. While Lopez walked a batter in each of his first three innings, he also remained hitless.

“He’s a good pitcher, man,” said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. “He’s got some good stuff. Great fastball. Great changeup. Great slider. He’s going to be a good pitcher in this league. So you got to tip your hat to him.”

Ironically, Lopez wound up tipping his hat twice to Moustakas after he struck him out in their first encounter. Moustakas ended Lopez’s no-hit bid with one out in the fourth inning with a long home run to right field to get the Royals within 2-1. The blast temporarily derailed Lopez, who allowed consecutive singles to Cheslor Cuthbert and Alcides Escobar afterward.

The third straight hit off Lopez brought pitching coach Don Cooper out to the mound. But Lopez didn’t break as he escaped further damage. Alex Gordon flew out to shallow center and Drew Butera fouled out to end the inning.

“He looked comfortable, too,” manager Rick Renteria said. “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.

“We were hoping it would look that way.”

Lopez was proud just to have the chance. The effort came only a week after Lopez said he felt like he was ready for a shot at the majors following an outstanding July. Lopez was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the month in July after he posted a 2.10 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Having pitched 44 innings in the big leagues last season, Lopez has believed all along he’s ready to be here. He said it had been difficult at times not to already be in the majors but he was happy with the patience he’d shown the White Sox.

Lopez was even happier with his performance on Friday, particularly how he escaped the fourth-inning jam. While he surrendered the lead in the sixth when he allowed a solo homer, Lopez and Smith think the youngster produced a good effort on which to build.

“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. I gave up three hits in a row but then I kept my confidence and I was able to get out of that inning.

“My key today was just my focus. I was focused all the game and I was able to command all my pitches.”

Why Todd Frazier is 'best option' for the Red Sox

Why Todd Frazier is 'best option' for the Red Sox

More trades are coming. White Sox players know it. Todd Frazier could be next.

Eager to begin the second half on Friday, White Sox players paid their respects to now former teammate Jose Quintana ahead of an afternoon workout. White Sox players described the difficulty in moving on from Quintana, one of the most popular players in the clubhouse because of his easygoing persona off the field and dogged nature on it.

They also know another popular teammate (Frazier) could be gone soon. Frazier’s stock has risen the past six weeks with improved production and a field of options thinned out by parity. Perhaps his strongest suitor is the Boston Red Sox, who are moving on from Pablo Sandoval. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski announced Friday morning that Sandoval had been designated for assignment. One baseball source said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Boston move quickly to fill its void at third.

“In some ways, Frazier is the best option out there,” the source said, noting “the combination of limited financial commitment and productivity.”

“Knowing Dave, it will be sooner than later.”

White Sox players expect that Quintana’s deal is only the tip of the iceberg as a number of talented individual pieces remain. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has the same feeling about some of his current teammates as the club’s rebuild has reached a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet. What began in earnest with the December trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton has only gained more elevation over the past two months. The White Sox made a bold move in May when they spent $52 million to sign 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert. Thursday’s blockbuster with the Cubs saw the White Sox rid themselves of their last enormous chip when they dealt Quintana.

“I won’t be surprised if there are a few more moves,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “We are buying into this process and you know that’s going to be a few situations in there. But this is a process.”

It’s a process general manager Rick Hahn is eager to continue. Hahn addressed the media again on Friday and noted his club is still in the first stage of its rebuild and wants to continue accumulating talent.

“We are very much open for business,” Hahn said.

Where that leaves Frazier, David Robertson and a series of other players is in a state of limbo. Quintana told Hahn on Thursday he had been bothered by the constant trade rumors that involved him since last December. Try as they may, White Sox players will have to continue to focus on anything but the constant chatter that will surround many of them until at least July 31 and perhaps the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.

From his own experience in Cincinnati, Frazier said on Saturday that he suspected things could be a little weird in the White Sox clubhouse when assets started to get traded. He also noted that he recently had improved at deflecting those distractions — thinking about trades or his impending free agency — and thought it helped him overall.

Since June 1, Frazier has a .923 OPS in 142 plate appearances with nine homers and 21 RBIs. The market for available third baseman has also been reduced by the recent hot play of the Kansas City Royals, who appear to no longer have interest in moving All-Star Mike Moustakas.

The Red Sox are in serious need of someone to man the hot corner with Sandoval DFA’d. Boston has a future third baseman in top-10 prospect Rafael Devers. But, Devers hasn’t yet played above Double-A and the Red Sox don’t sound as if they’re intent upon rushing him to the majors as they did last season with Yoan Moncada.

Those factors could make Frazier, who’s owed a little less than $6 million the rest of the season, extremely attractive to first-place Boston. Frazier, who told a trade knock-knock joke in his media session to “keep things light”, said he hasn’t recently spoken with Hahn about his situation.

“Now I’m like, control what you can control,” Frazier said last week. “Same thing about being traded, too. There’s nothing you can do about it until that time comes around. So just keep on working hard, keep understanding what you’re good at and keep working on the things you’re not good at even harder.

“Goodbyes are tough, but you understand it’s a business.”